Eleven months after he was hailed as a hero--and then arrested a day later--former Los Angeles Police Officer Jimmy Wade Pearson pleaded guilty Monday to a single charge stemming from his planting of a bomb-type device on a bus carrying the luggage of the Turkish Olympic team.
Pearson, 41, entered the plea to one count of possession of an explosive before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gerald J. Levie. The development came as lawyers were to complete jury selection.
The former officer, who faces up to three years in state prison, refused to comment. But his lawyer, Barry Levin, predicted that Pearson will be imprisoned and added that his client is relieved that he can now "put this behind him. He's already lost his career . . . We wanted to avoid a long, complicated trial . . . ."
Levin said he will provide an explanation of why Pearson planted the device at his Sept. 20 sentencing hearing.
Shortly after his arrest, Pearson admitted staging the elaborate hoax Aug. 13, in the hope that it would lead to his transfer from the Metro Division, where he claimed he had had problems with a supervisor.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday July 17, 1985 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 1 Metro Desk 3 inches; 81 words Type of Material: Correction
Due to an editing error, a story in some editions Tuesday quoted the lawyer for former Los Angeles Police Officer Jimmy Wade Pearson as saying his client will be imprisoned. Attorney Barry Levin actually predicted that Pearson, who pleaded guilty Monday to planting a bomb-type device on a Turkish Olympic team bus last August, would not be sent to prison. In addition, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lawrence E. Mason recommended that Pearson not be sent to state prison. But he made no recommendation on whether the former officer should serve time in County Jail when he is sentenced Sept. 20.
In return for the guilty plea, a second charge of reckless possession of a destructive device--which carries a mandatory prison sentence of two to six years--will be dismissed, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lawrence E. Mason said.
Although Levie has full discretion over whether or not to send Pearson to prison, Mason recommended in court Monday that the defendant not be incarcerated.
"Here's a guy who was a police officer for nine years who otherwise has an exemplary record," the prosecutor explained later. "He doesn't have a history of doing these kinds of things. . . . He may have been under a great deal of psychological pressure."
Pearson became the brief focus of international attention as the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games drew to a close, when he "discovered" a pipe bomb in the wheel well of the bus at Los Angeles International Airport. The officer ripped its wiring apart, sprinted 50 yards and tossed it onto a runway.
Police Chief Daryl F. Gates praised Pearson for "a hell of a courageous act." But the next day, a grim-faced Gates announced the officer's arrest. The chief said that he had ordered an investigation after becoming suspicious of Pearson's story and that the officer failed a polygraph test and subsequently confessed.
In the statement, Pearson had said: "This thing has been building up for a long time. I had to get out of Metro some way. . . . Making the phony bomb came to me about one week ago. I thought about how to make it look real without it being dangerous. . . ."
Levin said a key reason for the guilty plea was Levie's recent decision to allow the confession to be admitted as evidence.