Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Friday, June 6, 2014

Ryan Chamberlain: Case Unsealed, But Accused Bombmaker Remains in Custody

Posted By on Fri, Jun 6, 2014 at 11:40 AM

Ryan Chamberlain was outfitted in orange today
  • Ryan Chamberlain was outfitted in orange today


Case against San Francisco political operative described as "a fluid situation."

This morning, a federal judge ordered previously shielded material outlining the government's case against Ryan Chamberlain to be unsealed. The near- and longterm fate of the San Francisco political operative turned FBI fugitive and alleged bombmaker remains veiled, however.

Judge Nathanael Cousins granted government prosecutors' motion to keep x-ray images of a purported improvised explosive device found within a satchel in Chamberlain's apartment out of the public domain. He deigned, however, to release the search warrant and affidavit that led FBI agents to the 42-year-old's Polk Street abode last weekend, where they startled neighbors by smashing through the door while outfitted in HazMat suits -- a scene ripped from a Hollywood thriller.

After three days on the lam and several disturbing postings on social media sites, Chamberlain was apprehended by San Francisco police Monday night.

The unsealed documents have not yet been posted to the District Court's website. We will update this article when that takes place.

As for Chamberlain, his short-term future whereabouts may be determined as soon as this afternoon.

Chamberlain is charged with a single violation of 26 U.S. Code § 5861(c):

"to receive or possess a firearm transferred to him in violation of the

provisions of this chapter..." This charge is commonly described as "possession of an illegal destructive device." It carries a

maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

His attorney, federal public defender Jodi Linker, has requested Chamberlain be transferred to San Francisco General Hospital's locked psychiatric ward to "get him the treatment he needs." Failure to do so, she warned, could lead to his mental state "further deteriorating."

When asked by Cousins if she felt Chamberlain's mental condition could affect his ability to participate in his own defense, Linker replied that she had no intention of entering a plea anytime soon. Chamberlain, in her estimation, requires "further evaluation That's as much as I'm willing to say at this point."

Federal prosecutor Philip Kearney agreed that Chamberlain should remain in custody, but felt he could receive mental health treatment while incarcerated within the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant Street. Kearney stated that, based on evaluations of Chamberlain conducted yesterday, the defendant "has no prior history of mental illness, has never seen a therapist, and has never taken psychotropic medication."

Cousins cut him off: "To be fair, [the evaluation] says other things, too."

The judge recessed the hearing until 1:30 this afternoon so all parties could confer with the U.S. Marshal's office and solidify logistics regarding potentially transferring Chamberlain to the hospital.

The judge, however, was loath to release Chamberlain from custody, and Linker wasn't making that request. Cousins described the case as "a fluid situation" with "the government collecting more information." Kearney seemed to agree: "The case, to a certain extent, is reactive at this stage."

This story will be updated following both the afternoon portion of the hearing and the unsealing of the warrant and affidavit. 

Update, 2:30 p.m.: Despite the contentions of Chamberlain's attorney, Jodi Linker, that "jail mental health care is not the best, and that is an understatement" -- jail is where Chamberlain will remain.

Judge Nathaniel Cousins continued Chamberlain's detention hearing to June 16. Until that time, the defendant will remain in lockup at 850 Bryant, where he will undergo a mental health assessment.

His competency will be determined at a later date. 

Update, 4:15 p.m.: The affidavit for a search warrant unsealed today claims Ryan Chamberlain bought toxins -- including abrin and pure nicotine -- via black market websites. 

The circuitous trail to Chamberlain weaves through individuals nabbed by the feds for purportedly buying and selling toxic materials on clandestine websites. 

One seller, identified only as "Witness 2" purportedly admitted to selling toxins, improvised explosives, and firearms on such sites after his arrest. He also admitted to shipping packages to "Ryan Kelly" from a Vacaville UPS store.

"Ryan Kelly" resided at the same Polk Street apartment as Ryan Kelly Chamberlain. "Ryan Kelly" purportedly sought out quantities of the toxin abrin from Witness 2. 

"Kelly," per Witness 2, claimed he'd hoped to buy "liquid ricin" but found it too pricey. "Kelly" told Witness 2 he hoped to use the abrin to "ease the suffering" of cancer patients. Witness 2 claims he and "Kelly" agreed on a transaction involving a single sample of abrin for $250. 

Witness 2, however, claims he didn't follow through on the deal, instead shipping "Ryan Kelly" two clear vials containing "ground rosary peas" -- a toxic plant containing abrin. (Witness 2 told feds he was unnerved by some queries from "Ryan Kelly" including whether "an autopsy could detect whether abrin had been used to kill an individual.")

The affidavit claims the quantity of abrin within these vials could constitute "hundreds of lethal doses." Yet, per the feds, extracting the abrin would have required further refinement of the powder -- but, as is the case with so many things, you can find out how to do that on the Web. 

Witness 2 claims "Kelly" complained to him that "the abrin did not work." Communications between the two broke off shortly thereafter. 

In January, federal agents arrested "Witness 3" -- whose computer records also showed shipments to "Ryan Kelly" residing at Ryan Kelly Chamberlain's Polk Street address. Witness 3 claimed to the FBI that he sold pure nicotine -- a potentially deadly toxin -- to "Ryan Kelly." 

There is no mention within any of the documents, however, regarding what the agents claim they actually found in Chamberlain's apartment: a partially assembled improvised explosive device and firearms. 

Per the affidavit, Chamberlain has two prior felony arrests -- but both cases were dismissed. In 2003, he was accused of assault with a deadly weapon and child cruelty; in 2009 he was nabbed for battery and injury of a child. 

Redacted Crim Comp Chamberlain

  • Pin It

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


Comments are closed.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"