BOISE -- A Boise man who packed black powder and half-finished pipe bombs into the crawl space of the home where he lived with his girlfriend and two young children pleaded guilty in court Thursday.
Joshua James Finch, 32, was arrested in November on a slew of charges, including possession of bombs. It took law enforcement more than 30 hours to remove more than 100 pounds of chemicals, explosives, and other bomb components from the Dorian Street house.
Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Tamera Kelly said Thursday she plans to ask Judge Thomas Neville to impose a 25-year sentence, with 15 years before Finch would be eligible for parole. As part of a plea deal, she agreed to reduce a kidnapping charge to aggravated assault, which carries a lesser maximum punishment, and to drop a charge of unlawful possession of a weapon.
Finch was barred from owning a gun after a 2006 felony aggravated assault conviction, but police found a nine millimeter handgun and an AR-15 assault rifle in his home during the search.
The defendant still faces a charges of possession of destructive devices or bombs, aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, and two counts of injury to a child. The crawl space where he hid the explosives snaked beneath the room of his 3-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, prosecutors said.
In court, Finch said he wanted to take responsibility for what he'd done.
I was wrong, I shouldn't have done it, he said. I want to hold myself accountable. Neville warned him judges aren't bound to follow the prosecutors' recommendations, even with a plea deal.
I want to be right up front with you: You're taking your chances with the court when it comes to sentencing, the judge said.
Finch was arrested after his then-fiance, who spoke to KTVB on the condition of anonymity, witnessed a pattern of disturbing behavior. A Boise State graduate student who did not work, Finch would often lock himself in the couple's shed to work on projects, sometimes all night long.
The woman and her parents confronted Finch after she spotted buckets of black material and boxes labeled toxic in the shed. That's when Kelly said Finch flew into a rage, slamming his girlfriend's father into a wall, and threatening to kill him if he went to police.
He threatened to kill his girlfriend if they told of his plans, Kelly said. He was angered that they'd foiled his plans.
Ransom Bailey, Finch's public defender, objected to her phrasing, saying it had never been proven that Finch had a plan or a target in mind while building the bombs. The outburst was motivated more by fear of arrest than frustration that a plot had gone awry, he said.
He's upset, your Honor, because I think he knows the trouble he could potentially be in, Bailey said. He's not upset that some imminent plan has been uncovered.
Eventually, Finch allowed his girlfriend's parents to leave. He was arrested two days later as he dropped his children off at daycare and school. Kelly said police wanted to wait to strike until the children were out of the house.
More than 20 homes in the neighborhood were evacuated after officers found the explosives, including 20-25 pounds of black powder under a trap door in the floor of Finch's laundry room. Also in the crawl space were timers, switches, and sections of pipe in various stages of being converted into bombs.
Two of the pipe bombs appeared to be finished, although not filled with powder, Kelly said.
Police also found ammunition and a bulletproof vest. Packages containing a combat helmet from Israel and a box of fuse arrived in the mail after Finch's arrest.
Neville asked Finch if he was certain he wanted to plead guilty to the charges against him, noting there would be no chance to withdraw his plea once it was accepted.
I want you to understand that you're on one side of a stream, Neville said. If you step across the stream and if the court accepts your guilty plea, you can't go back.
But Finch told the judge he was absolutely sure he wanted to plead guilty.
Sentencing has been set for June 30 at 2 p.m. Neville ordered Finch to undergo a mental health evaluation. His ex-fiance says he suffers from bipolar disorder, and Finch told the judge he was
Neville, who has already denied two requests from KTVB to film Finch's court appearances, said he had not yet decided whether to allow cameras into the courtroom for the sentencing.
Bailey opposed that idea, saying he was concerned the media would cast Finch in an unfavorable way.
My client feels it's prejudicial, he said.