LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – An Arkansas doctor facing weapons charges is the "prime suspect" in a car bombing targeting the chair of the state medical board, a federal agent said during testimony at a hearing for the accused physician's wife.
David Oliver, a special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Monday that Dr. Randeep Mann is the focus of the investigation into the February blast that critically wounded Dr. Trent Pierce.
Mann is accused of illegally owning high-explosive grenades. His wife, Sangeeta Mann, was ordered released from jail pending her trial for allegedly hindering the investigation.
When Sangeeta Mann's attorney, Cathy Compton, suggested to Oliver that her client had nothing to do with the bombing, Oliver replied: "That's not accurate."
No one has been charged in the February bombing in West Memphis in which Pierce, chairman of the Arkansas Medical Board, lost an eye and suffered other injuries.
In finding that Sangeeta Mann was not a flight risk, U.S. Magistrate Judge Beth Deere noted witness testimony at Monday's detention hearing that portrayed Mann as a devoted mother and friend with far more ties to the U.S. than to her native India.
"I don't think I can find that (Mann) is probably going to flee the country," Deere said.
Sangeeta Mann, 48, of London, Ark., was arrested last week. The seven-count indictment, unsealed Friday, accuses her and her husband of attempting to hide from federal agents signed, blank checks.
The indictment also accuses Sangeeta Mann of lying to a federal grand jury about removing the checks from her husband's medical office on his orders.
Randeep Mann already was charged with illegally possessing grenades. He has been jailed since his arrest in March, which followed a search of his home, where agents found a large cache of weapons and ammunition. Most of the firearms met legal requirements and were not seized.
Oliver testified the investigation into the Pierce bombing is ongoing and offered no further details.
The state Medical Board earlier revoked Randeep Mann's license to write prescriptions over complaints about patient deaths and allegations over pain-pill prescriptions.
Randeep Mann was not at Monday's hearing and did not testify. His lawyer left the courthouse without commenting and did not return a message left at his office late Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon argued that Sangeeta Mann should not be released and tried to show that the couple had moved money to India, where the family has property and relatives. Mann moved to the U.S. when she was 11.
Her daughter, Shivani Mann, 21, testified that her mother does not speak Hindi and that her relatives in India would not approve if she left her family to avoid a trial.
"She would rather die than ... have to leave us," Shivani Mann said.
Randeep Mann was arrested after city workers outside London, Ark., found a plastic-wrapped canister containing high-explosive grenades. He has an Aug. 18 hearing scheduled for the new charges.