YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

S.F. Millionaire Guilty in Bomb Attack

December 24, 1987|Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A weary jury Wednesday found millionaire landlord Peter Pilaski guilty in a bouquet bomb attack on his estranged wife--violence the jury believed Pilaski masterminded through his alleged gay lover.

Pilaski was ordered back to U.S. District Judge Robert H. Schnacke's court Jan. 29 for sentencing. He could draw a maximum of 45 years in prison and a $1-million fine.

As the verdict was read by the clerk--guilty on all four counts--the graying, 53-year-old defendant betrayed no emotion in the 17th-floor courtroom. But a few minutes later, after the judge left the courtroom, Pilaski looked stunned as the chamber buzzed with talk by reporters and lawyers.

'Nothing to Look Forward to'

"He feels his life is effectively over," Pilaski's lawyer, John Milano, said later. "He feels he has nothing to look forward to."

The decision, in 24 hours of deliberation over six days, came as a surprise to courtroom observers because the jurors indicated to the judge last week that they were deadlocked. The panel had no answer Tuesday when the judge asked them whether there was "any movement" toward a decision.

Milano told reporters he had assumed when he walked into the courtroom Wednesday that the jury "was hopelessly deadlocked and that Mr. Pilaski would be acquitted."

Jurors refused to talk to reporters after the verdict.

The jury found Pilaski guilty on the testimony of Shaun Small, his former employee and alleged lover who was convicted earlier of delivering the bomb. Small said he had been following Pilaski's orders.

"The jury worked long and hard. Obviously, the government thinks they reached the right verdict," said Assistant U.S. Atty. John Lyons.

Wife, Co-Worker Injured

Melanie Pilaski, 42, and co-worker Pamela Castro were cut and burned in November, 1986, when a black-powder bomb exploded inside a flower basket that had been delivered to a U.S. General Services Administration office in downtown San Francisco.

A month earlier, Melanie Pilaski had filed for divorce after 20 years of marriage. The divorce is now final. Pilaski's holdings had been estimated at $3 million.

Small, 28, had delivered the bouquet, wearing a bellhop's costume, heavy makeup and a wig. He was convicted in July of destroying government property and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in exchange for his cooperation in the case against Pilaski.

Pilaski did not testify. Milano blamed the bombing entirely on Small, whom he called a "schizophrenic madman."

Emigrated From West Germany

Pilaski was an impoverished West German seaman in 1955 when he emigrated to the United States under the sponsorship of Small's parents. He made his fortune in San Francisco real estate and hired the then-teen-aged Shaun as an apartment manager in 1976.

According to Small's testimony, Pilaski dominated his life, telephoning him at daybreak and throughout the day, scheduling every hour of his day and cutting most of his ties to his family and the outside world.

Melanie Pilaski, also a prosecution witness, said the two men became lovers and also went on regular cocaine binges.

Los Angeles Times Articles