RIVERSIDE (CBS) — A federal judge Friday ordered a Desert Hot Springs man accused of planting pipe bombs near a former girlfriend’s residence held without bail.
“The issues here give the court strained pause with respect to the (potential) danger to the community,” U.S. District Judge David Bristow said during a detention hearing for Edward Costa. “A significant factor is the placement of these destructive devices.”
Costa, 47, is accused of possession of an unregistered destructive device. The charge, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence, stemmed from a multi-agency investigation that led to evidence allegedly linking Costa to the planting of a half-dozen pipe bombs in Palm Springs.
The first device was found May 9, four more on May 10 and another on May 12, according to Palm Springs police.
Costa appeared for a detention hearing at U.S. District Court in downtown Riverside today, seeking to be released from custody following his arrest Thursday.
Bristow determined that Costa was not a flight risk and was not immediately convinced by the prosecution’s briefs that he posed a danger to society either, prompting Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Sheth to summon one of the investigators in the case, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Agent Adam Rudolph, to testify.
Rudolph said during a search of Costa’s residence, federal agents discovered four marijuana plants, a flare gun, 20 to 30 12-gauge shotgun shells, gunpowder and a metal end-cap. Costa also had a small quantity of methamphetamine in his pocket, according to Rudolph.
The agent testified some of the material was similar to that used in the pipe bombs.
“All six pipe bombs were found in close proximity to the defendant’s ex-girlfriend’s home,” Sheth argued. “One of them was placed outside her residence, and she was forced to evacuate.”
Deputy Federal Public Defender Jeffrey Aaron countered that his client worked for a construction company, laying pipe and doing plumbing work, explaining why the end-cap was in his garage. Aaron further stated that with only one criminal conviction for receiving stolen property, Costa could hardly be categorized as a danger to society.
However, Bristow felt the type of devices and the evidence — including DNA — allegedly tying the defendant to two of the pipe bombs pointed to a potential for violence.
“The nature of the allegations here is grave,” Bristow said. Arraignment was set for June 27.
According to court papers, on May 9, a man brought a six-inch device to the Palm Springs Police Department, saying his father, who was in his 90s, found it on a walk near East San Rafael Drive and North Sunrise Way the day before. Authorities used a robot to detonate the device.
On May 10, the same witness called police and said his father had found a similar device on his morning walk near North Indian Canyon Drive and East San Rafael. When officers arrived, they found the device, plus three others — all similar to the bomb the man had taken to the station.
The bomb squad “rendered each of the live explosive devices safe,” said police Sgt. Mike Kovaleff, adding that two of the bombs were made from PVC pipe and the other from metal pipe.
On May 12, a jogger found a pipe bomb in the 2700 block of Verona Road, and authorities disarmed it.
On May 10, a woman told police that Costa, her daughter’s ex-boyfriend, “was manufacturing the devices because because she had seen PVC piping at his residence on numerous occasions,” according to an affidavit written by Clinton Kehr, a BATF agent. “(She) further stated she was concerned because one of the devices was found near her daughter’s residence.”
When authorities went to Costa’s residence on Pomelo Drive in Desert Hot Springs on May 11, they saw blue pipe glue near the front door, according to Kehr’s affidavit.
“This pipe glue appeared to be the same color as the pipe glue found on the PVC pipe devices,” Kehr wrote. Costa, who wasn’t home, had a state warrant for a felony narcotics charge, according to Kehr.
“During this investigation, members of the Palm Springs Police Department worked tirelessly alongside representatives with several local, county, state and federal agencies,” said Palm Springs Police Department Chief Alberto Franz. “Their collaborative efforts led directly to the identification and arrest of the suspect.”
Anyone with information or questions about the investigation was asked to call (888) 283-2662.
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