SAN DIEGO – An unemployed software consultant who stockpiled huge amounts of powerful explosives in his suburban home was sentenced Monday to 30 years in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns imposed the mandatory minimum sentence to brandishing a firearm while robbing a bank for George Jakubec, though the judge said the punishment seemed a little excessive. Other charges were dropped under a plea agreement in which Jakubec admitted storing the explosives and robbing several banks.
The defendant said nothing at his sentencing and told his attorney not to discuss his motives. He looked frail with a mane of wavy, gray hair and thick-rimmed glasses and, at one point, sat down because he appeared unstable on his feet.
"He had so many things going for him," said his attorney Michael Berg. "He's very, very smart. He had a good job, was making good money, and something just basically broke down."
Jakubec, 55, was arrested in November after a gardener stepped on residue in his backyard in Escondido, suffering eye, chest and arm injuries. Authorities were forced to destroy the home in a carefully orchestrated burn that played out on television screens across the U.S.
Rees Morgan, an assistant U.S. attorney, said an exhaustive investigation found no evidence that the immigrant from former Yugoslavia was a terrorist or that he even intended to hurt anyone or damage property.
Berg drew parallels with Hollywood characters whose normal lives suddenly implode, like Michael Douglas' in "Falling Down" or Peter Finch's in "Network."
"His spirit is broken, mentally, physically," Berg said.
Jakubec acknowledged making and storing nine detonators, 13 grenade hulls and large quantities of the highly unstable Hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, or HMDT, which can explode by someone stepping on it. He admitted having significant amounts of Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, the explosive used in the 2001 airliner shoe-bombing attempt.
Burns recalled reading documents in the case and thinking, "My goodness, this is quite a midlife crisis."
"I want to put this in the right context, you're not the shoe bomber," he said.
Letters to the judge from Jakubec's wife and others portray a man who was despondent about losing his job in his early 50s.
"George told me that unemployment makes him feel useless and worthless — a terrible feeling for a man who worked hard all his life and was successful and well-liked at work," said Maria Ivanova, his wife of 11 years who met her husband on the Internet and moved from Russia to marry him. She called him a wonderful, loving husband.
Ivanova, who did not attend the sentencing, wrote that her husband's anxiety about unemployment led to obsessive hoarding of electronic components.
"He was out of control, he kept bringing things into the house, and our home was filling up with piles of junk," she wrote. "I was very worried about George and his sanity. I was praying and hoping that once George gets a job, this hoarding behavior would stop."
Jakubec came to the U.S. in 1971, when he was 15, according to cousin Paul Abelovski. He attended San Diego State University and worked for computer maker Burroughs Corp. and information technology company Unisys Corp.
Jakubec excelled at work, William Jasper, a former co-worker at Burroughs, wrote the judge. Later, he got a general contractor's license and built and sold upscale San Diego-area homes.
"It seemed that sometime after the turn of the century George's career ceased to flourish," Jasper wrote.
Jakubec pleaded guilty to brandishing a firearm while he robbed a Bank of America branch in San Diego of $42,012 in November 2009 and returning with a firearm to the same branch two weeks later in an attempted robbery that was foiled when he spotted a security guard.
Jakubec acknowledged in his plea agreement that he also robbed other Bank of America San Diego branches last year of $1,480 and $10,400.
Under his plea agreement, Jakubec agreed to reimburse San Diego County the $541,000 it cost authorities to destroy the home. Burns scheduled a hearing to determine if that was necessary, considering that Jakubec was in no position to pay.
"If he were Donald Trump, then I'd stick him with it," the judge said. "All it is at this point is symbolic."