Prosecutor tells jury Ark. doctor masterminded bomb attack despite lack of forensic evidence
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A federal prosecutor told jurors Monday that there is plenty of proof that an Arkansas doctor masterminded a plot to plant a homemade bomb in the state medical board chairman's driveway even though there is no forensic evidence or witnesses to prove he set off the explosive.
Prosecutors claim that Dr. Randeep Mann, a licensed firearms dealer, plotted the February 2009 bomb attack against Dr. Trent Pierce, the head of the Arkansas State Medical Board because he was furious that the board repeatedly disciplined him for overprescribing certain drugs.
Prosecutors said they have no forensic evidence that Mann planted the homemade bomb — made of a spare tire and a hand grenade— that detonated as Pierce tried to move the tire away from his Lexus SUV at his West Memphis home. He suffered serious injuries to his face, neck and arms and was partially blinded in the blast.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Whatley said prosecutors can prove that Mann had access to the types of materials used to build the bomb.
"This case is not hard. This case is not complicated," Whatley told jurors Monday during opening statements at Mann's trial. "It is a case about man who was obsessed with firearms. ... A man who was intent on harming someone else based on what he had available to him."
"It was an animosity that resulted in the bombing," she said.
Prosecutors have said that Mann carried out the attack with the help of others, but no one else has been identified or charged in the bombing. Mann is also accused of illegally possessing two unregistered guns and 98 grenades. His wife, Sangeeta "Sue" Mann, faces perjury and obstruction charges related to the investigation. They both have pleaded not guilty.
Randeep Mann was initially arrested a month after the bombing after a city worker stumbled upon a cache of grenades, buried near Mann's home in Pope County. A grand jury later indicted him in connection with the Pierce bombing.
One of Mann's attorneys, Jack Lassiter, told jurors that the doctor is a hardworking, naturalized U.S. citizen who was unfairly targeted because he stood out after moving to rural Pope County.
The Manns emigrated to the United States from India, and Lassiter said "malicious" gossip circled around Pope County, leading to numerous complaints before the medical board.
The board had stripped Mann of his right to prescribe narcotics, and at the time of the bombing, was investigating whether he should lose his medical license over allegations that he continued to distribute drugs even after losing that privilege.
Lassiter admitted that Mann surrendered his Drug Enforcement Agency permit to prescribe controlled substances, but downplayed Pierce's connection.
When Mann reapplied for the DEA permit and the board rejected it, "Dr. Pierce didn't make the motion to deny. Dr. Pierce didn't second it," Lassiter said.
Sue Mann's attorney, Tim Dudley, told jurors that his client is innocent and that she didn't conspire to obstruct the investigation against her husband. She's accused of lying to the grand jury and taking blank, pre-signed checks from Mann's medical clinic before a search warrant was executed there.
"The government can't touch hide nor hair in proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in this case," Dudley said.
The trial, expected to last at least a month, continues Tuesday with prosecutors calling their first witnesses.