Utah jury convicts Ill. man for library explosion
SALT LAKE CITY – A federal jury in Utah on Monday convicted an Illinois man of bombing a downtown Salt Lake City library in 2006.
Thomas Zajac, 57, of Downers Grove, Ill., was found guilty of six felony charges that prosecutors said are almost guaranteed to keep him locked up for the rest of his life.
Sentencing was set for Dec. 16.
The most serious charge — using a destructive device in a crime of violence — calls for a minimum of 30 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Zajac was angry about his son's 2004 drunken-driving arrest by Salt Lake City police.
Defense lawyers told the jury that Zajac's son, Adam Zajac, had a better motive for the bombing than his father.
But the father angrily rejected that theory after the jury returned its verdict.
"I'm sorry for my attorney accusing my son. It was a malicious lie," Thomas Zajac said with the jury still sitting in court. "My son had nothing to do with it."
With that outburst, his defense lawyers, Edwin S. Wall and Deirdre Gorman, got U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups's permission to promptly quit the case.
While the elder Zajac defended his son in court, he didn't say who planted the pipe bomb. The Sept. 15, 2006, explosion sent shrapnel flying for more than 15 feet, blew out a window and forced 400 people to flee.
"The fact that nobody was injured was fortunate," prosecutor Rich McKelvie said Monday. "His attempt was to embarrass police by showing they could not protect this community."
Thomas Zajac's fingerprints were on bomb parts and letters taunting police, banking records show he traveled to Utah at the same time, and he was captured entering and moving around inside the library by surveillance video, McKelvie said.
The tapes didn't show the bombing, however.
Thomas Zajac's son was nowhere near Utah when he bomb went off, and no other evidence suggested the son played a role, McKelvie said.
Wall and Gorman refused comment on Thomas Zajac's outburst in court or why they blamed the son for the bombing.
Thomas Zajac has been accused of setting off another pipe bomb two weeks before, at a suburban commuter train station in 2006 in Hinsdale, Ill.
A federal grand jury in Illinois issued a four-court indictment in May alleging Thomas Zajac planted that bomb. As with the Utah bombing, authorities said Thomas Zajac had a similar motive — a run-in with Hinsdale police.
A hearing in the Illinois case is set for Oct 21.
"He spent a period of time as a bitter and angry man," McKelvie said.