`Bomb factory’ suspect denies charges in federal court
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A man accused of making bombs and storing large amounts of explosives at his rented Escondido home — including compounds used by terrorists — pleaded not guilty Monday to eight federal charges and was ordered held without bail.
George Djura Jakubec, who was born in Serbia, is charged with making and possessing destructive devices as well as robbing three banks and trying to rob a fourth over the past two years.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rees Morgan refused to comment on whether more charges might be forthcoming.
In a brief hearing at in U.S. District Court, Magistrate Judge Ruben Brooks ordered Jakubec held without bail, saying the 54-year-old defendant would be a risk to flee and a danger to the community if released.
Jakubec, wearing glasses and an orange jumpsuit, answered quietly when Brooks asked him his name and whether he understood the proceedings.
A motion and trial-setting hearing was set for Jan. 18 before U.S. District Judge Larry Burns.
Investigators and attorneys have disclosed no suspected motive for the defendant's alleged bomb-making activities at the house he shared with his wife.
“George is anxious to tell his side of the story,” Jakubec's lawyer, Michael Berg, said outside court.
A federal indictment handed up last week alleges that on or before Nov. 18, Jakubec made destructive devices, including nine detonators and 13 grenade hulls, along with unknown quantities of high explosives.
The purported crimes came to light last month after a landscaper, 49- year-old Mario Garcia of Fallbrook, stepped on and detonated something akin to a mine in Jakubec's back yard, suffering serious injuries.
The cache of compounds — including substances used by suicide bombers and the so-called underwear and shoe bombers — was “the largest quantity of these types of homemade explosives (ever found) at one place in the United States,” Deputy District Attorney Terri Perez said at Jakubec's Nov. 22 arraignment in state court.
Perez told a judge the defendant had turned his home into a “bomb factory.”
According to court records, Jakubec admitted to authorities that he had robbed three banks and kept explosives and other weapons at his home.
Bomb experts decided that burning down the house was the safest way to dispose of the large amount of hazardous bomb-making chemicals, the discovery of which prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare San Diego County a disaster area.
The controlled fire is expected to happen Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
Berg said Jakubec told him he wanted to apologize to anyone who will be adversely affected by the destruction of the house.
The attorney said his client is despondent because he and his wife will lose everything inside the home.
“Basically, everything they own is about to go up in smoke,” the defense attorney told reporters. “He's depressed. He's basically going to lose everything that he has. He's very upset that the house is going to be destroyed.”
To prepare for the destruction of the residence, crews erected a 16-foot- high metal-framed wall covered with fire-resistant dry wall alongside it to the north. The barrier, which also will be coated with flame-retardant gel, will protect the nearest neighbor's home, sheriff's spokeswoman Melissa Aquino said.
Workers also removed shrubs, trees and wooden fences that could catch fire during the burn, which will take place when climatic conditions — notably wind patterns — are as favorable as possible for this time of year.
The county Air Pollution Control District installed a portable weather station on the roof of nearby Escondido Fire Department Fire Station 3 to get real-time readings and “minimize surprises” on the day of the burn, Aquino said.
Hazardous-materials experts, meanwhile, have been strategizing on air monitoring to take place during the prescribed blaze and planning for the subsequent clean-up task.
The state Department of Toxic Substances Control has agreed to fund removal of all the debris from the site except for the house's concrete slab.
Sheriff's officials also have been meeting with Escondido police and firefighting personnel to plan the evacuation of dozens of homes and traffic- control measures that will be necessary on the day of the controlled fire, Aquino said.
A stretch of nearby Interstate 15 also will be closed during the operation due to its proximity to the contaminated house.
This morning, members of the Sheriff's Bomb/Arson Unit made some final preparations for the burn day, evaluating the structure and doing an internal survey to bring the house down as safely and quickly as possible, according to the department spokeswoman.
They also monitored weather patterns to help determine the best date for the burn operation, Aquino said.
San Marcos firefighters were on site to support the ordnance technicians as they went inside the house and were on standby in case of a chemical exposure or fire. County hazardous-materials personnel also were present to assist the bomb squad in identifying dangerous substances.
Firefighters, meanwhile, were setting up equipment from various agencies for a command post at the firehouse a block away from Jakubec's former home.
Escondido police are finalizing the designation of evacuation and shelter-in-place zones along with initial door-to-door educational fliers that will be distributed this evening or Tuesday in preparation for the burn-day activities.
Eight deputies are providing around-the-clock security at the house, Aquino said.