California bomb-maker aimed to ‘commit as much mass destruction as he could,’ DA says
A man convicted of driving around Southern California with bombs he “designed and built to kill” in his car was sentenced on Monday to 19 years in state prison, prosecutors said.
“There is no doubt that he had the intent by his possession of these weapons to commit as much mass destruction as he could,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said at a news conference, describing 48-year-old Saleh Ali of Salinas as a “wannabe terrorist.”
Before hearing his sentence, Ali insulted the judge and made an anti-Semitic remark about the prosecutor, NBC Los Angeles reports.
“You’re a cockroach,” Ali told the judge, according to the TV station. NBC reports that Ali, who was representing himself in the case, also said in court that Deputy District Attorney Susan Laird “seems to be confused ... maybe she has a Jewish background, I don’t know.”
Ali was convicted on March 4 of a handful of felony charges related to the improvised bombs, including two counts of use of a destructive device with the intent to injure, prosecutors said.
The charges came after Ali was pulled over in Brea on Sept. 18 by an officer who noticed his expired registration tags, prosecutors said in a news release. Ali also had an expired license at the time. Authorities planned to tow his vehicle — but first, officers did an inventory search and discovered two small improvised bombs, prosecutors said. The devices were described as “glass containers with improvised fuses covered in shrapnel which contained explosive material.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad was called in, and Ali was arrested when an inspection revealed the devices “would readily explode when introduced to a flame,” prosecutors said.
The bomb squad destroyed the IEDs where they were found, NBC reports.
“Our residents will no longer have to worry about driving down the street next to Saleh Ali and the bombs he designed and built to kill them,” Spitzer said in a statement.
It’s not Ali’s first brush with the law, according to prosecutors.
“Saleh Ali has spent the last two decades engaged in violent behavior that has left his victims severely injured and permanently disfigured,” Spitzer said.
Prosecutors said Ali was convicted of terroristic threats and weapons charges in New Jersey in 2003 after he shot at two men multiple times. That same year in New Jersey, Ali pleaded guilty to slashing a 23-year-old man “from his earlobe to his chin with a razor-like object during a verbal dispute in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot” — an injury that gave the man “a disfiguring scar,” prosecutors said.
And in 2013, Ali permanently blinded a 39-year-old Nepalese hotel manager in one eye by throwing a jar full of acid at the man’s head, causing burns across his face and requiring “five surgeries that were unsuccessful in restoring his vision,” prosecutors said.
Ali was imprisoned for two years in Nepal after that incident, according to the news release.
“It is clear he planned to continue that destruction here in Orange County,” Spitzer said.
Joshua Stone, an FBI assistant special agent in charge, said Ali wasn’t directly linked to any specific terrorist group, the Los Angeles Times reports.