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Man Held in Pipe-Bombing Is Denied Bail

Judge says he fears Hien Duc Le could disable an electronic monitoring device. Le's older brother was badly hurt in the Santa Ana blast.

June 21, 2003|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

Saying the prisoner was a flight risk and danger to the community, a federal judge denied bail Friday for a man accused of conspiring with his older brother in a bomb explosion last weekend near a congresswoman's campaign office in Santa Ana.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Nakazato considered setting bail for Hien Duc Le, 33, on the condition that the man wear an electronic monitoring device, but then rejected the idea.

"I am concerned about his ability," Nakazato said. "I think there is enough evidence that he can defeat [the monitoring device] because of his background in electronics."

Le, shackled at the waist, turned to his attorney and translator to explain that he worked with pig tissue at a heart-valve company, not with electronics.

Le's brother, Hai Duc Le, 35, was seriously injured when a pipe bomb exploded in his lap as he sat in a car at a Santa Ana strip mall near Rep. Loretta Sanchez's campaign office.

The older brother remains hospitalized and is expected to survive, though it may be months before he can appear in court. Hien Duc Le's attorney said Friday that the older brother intended to commit suicide, and that his client had nothing to do with the pipe bomb or bomb ingredients found in his Garden Grove home and car.

"[Hien Le] shared a bedroom with his brother," said defense attorney Thomas Avdeef, "but there's no connection between him and someone trying to kill himself."

Assistant U.S. Atty. Todd Tristan rejected that theory and said that even after the blast the injured brother tried to discard remnants of the bomb by pushing them under or away from his car.

Tristan said investigators are focusing on other motives and have not ruled out the possibility that the bomb was directed at Sanchez's office or was part of a murder-for-hire scheme aimed at a patron of a Vietnamese cafe at the strip mall.

Le was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and possession of bomb-making materials on Monday, a day after his older brother was injured.

The bomb, made from a 16-inch length of PVC pipe and designed to be detonated by remote control, was filled with roofing nails, authorities said.

The trigger was similar to those used to control toy airplanes and cars, officials said.

"This was no ordinary destructive device," said Tristan. "It required knowledge and research."

Witnesses said the man was sitting in his car listening to the radio for 10 to 15 minutes before the bomb exploded.

Sanchez's office was closed and the congresswoman was not in Orange County.

Santa Ana police said Sanchez's district office in Garden Grove had been helping a Le family relative with an immigration matter.

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