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Man Guilty of Bombing in Fla. Keys

January 28, 2003|From Reuters

KEY WEST, Fla. — A man charged with setting off a pipe bomb in his former lover's car was convicted Monday of using a "weapon of mass destruction" because the blast disrupted business and traffic in the Florida Keys.

Gene Hodler, 67, of Lake Placid, Fla., faces 30 years to life in prison after he was convicted of four federal counts that include using a weapon of mass destruction to disrupt interstate and foreign commerce in February 2002.

The 4-inch homemade pipe bomb exploded in Evon Leach's car in Marathon, Fla., about 50 miles north of Key West. The blast shut down U.S. Highway 1 in Marathon, the main road linking the 100-mile chain of tourism-dependent islands, for four hours.

Leach's legs were severely injured and she spent six weeks recovering from burns and skin graft treatments. Leach, then 51 and a nurse, also suffered a broken arm and ankle.

The jury also found Hodler guilty of discharging a firearm in a crime of violence, possessing an unregistered firearm and possessing ammunition after being convicted of domestic violence. Hodler pleaded no contest to domestic battery on Leach in 1994.

Hodler and Leach had lived together for 17 years and battled in court in January 2002 over $240,000 in stock earnings from day trading.

Sentencing was set before U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore on April 9 in Key West.

Defense attorneys Jeffrey Weiner and Mycki Ratzan said they planned to appeal the verdict on grounds the evidence was circumstantial.

Federal authorities found a pipe, ammunition, wires, switches, tools, a notepad bearing Leach's address, a description of her car, her license tag number and a Florida Keys map in Hodler's car.

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