FBI ordered not to destroy car bomb evidence

September 8, 2010 10:39:04 PM PDT
The activist survivor of a car bombing 20 years ago in Oakland is asking the federal court to order the FBI not to destroy fragments of the bomb and other remaining evidence.

The FBI said publicly three years after the bombing that it had exhausted all leads.

Lawyers for Darryl Cherney, a member of the group Earth First, filed their motion Wednesday before U.S. District Judge James Larsen.

Cherney says the FBI still has two sets of bomb remnants which may contain DNA evidence that may lead authorities to the identity of the "real bomber."

Cherney and his colleague Judi Bari were in their car just about to pull out of Oakland May 24, 1990 to attend a Save the Redwoods Festival in Santa Cruz. As they traveled on Park Boulevard, the bomb exploded, ripping through the floorboards. Cherney's wounds were minor. Bari suffered serious injuries.

Oakland police and the FBI believed the couple made the bomb and that it exploded accidentally. Cherney and Bari were arrested on felony explosive charges.

But within days, the case started to fall apart. The FBI later admitted the bomb was not in the back seat as agents previously stated but that it was placed under the driver's seat. And the nails in the bomb did not match others found in other parts of the car.

The charges against Bari and Cherney were later dropped by the Alameda County District Attorney, who cited insufficient evidence to proceed further.

Then, a newspaper received a letter taking responsibility for the bombing. It was signed "the lord's avenger" and said Bari was targeted because of her activities against abortion opponents. It described in detail the car bomb and a pipe bomb found weeks earlier at a lumber mill in Cloverdale.

Cherney claims investigators never took it seriously.

Bari died in 1997 but both charged that the FBI and Oakland police never conducted a thorough investigation, targeting only Bari and Cherney as suspects.

In 2002, a federal jury awarded $4.4 million to Cherney and Bari's estate, saying their civil rights were violated when the FBI and OPD arrested them and illegally searched their homes.

After an hour hearing, Larsen ordered the FBI to preserve the evidence until the final disposition of the bomb remnants could be resolved.

The FBI declined comment because the case is under litigation.


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