Guilt admitted in church bomb try
Published: March 29, 2010, 1:32 pm
A drunken escapade with racist overtones last summer has left a 29-year-old Buffalo man facing a term in federal prison.
Richard M. Blonski, 29, of Jones Street, pleaded guilty to three felony charges Monday in connection with an attempted bombing July 4 at a predominantly black church on Lewis Street.
In a case that initially was investigated as a potential hate crime, Blonski admitted that he made a pipe bomb and placed it inside Redeeming Fire Fellowship Church.
Although the fuse was lit on the bomb, police said, it did not go off. No one was in the church when Blonski threw it inside.
Appearing in U.S. District Court before Judge Richard J. Arcara, Blonski pleaded guilty to felonies of attempted arson and bombmaking and to a civil rights crime of intending to damage a religious facility based on racial motivations.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Buffalo fire marshals and other agencies.
Shortly after his arrest, Blonski told federal agents that he had consumed an excessive quantity of Southern Comfort liqueur and "a bunch of beers" before deciding to try to bomb the church.
Blonski, who is employed as a fence installer, told agents that he committed the crime because he was despondent that his life appeared to be going nowhere. But in his plea agreement, he admitted that he targeted the church because of the "race, color and ethnic characteristics" of the congregants.
"Is that what happened here?" Arcara asked Blonski.
"Yes," the defendant said.
The attempted bombing occurred four weeks after Redeeming Fire Fellowship took over a building that, for decades, had been Precious Blood Catholic Church.
If the judge decides to follow advisory sentencing guidelines, Blonski could face at least five years and three months in prison when he is sentenced July 7.
But if he had been convicted of using a bomb in a crime of violence, he could have faced a mandatory minimum prison term of 30 years, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard P. Maigret said.