Plea deal reduces charges related to accused bomb threat

By Christine Clarridge
Seattle Times staff reporter

A man who was accused by federal officers of threatening to bomb the Department of Veterans Affairs office in downtown Seattle is scheduled to be sentenced on lesser charges of illegally possessing marijuana and a firearm today in King County Superior Court.

King County prosecutors are expected to ask the judge to dismiss the bomb-threat charge that was filed against Charles M. Whitaker, 53, in August after he was arrested by federal agents acting on a tip from two of Whitaker's former roommates.

Whitaker pleaded guilty earlier this month to possessing marijuana and to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Prosecutors and Whitaker's defense attorney, Brad Meryhew, agreed in a plea deal to recommend that Whitaker be sentenced to three months on each charge. Whitaker was released in October and placed on electronic home monitoring.

According to court documents, Whitaker's former roommates told Homeland Security Special Agent Scott W. Hunt that Whitaker had threatened to bomb the VA because he had been denied benefits and that he had bomb-making pamphlets and a "large stockpile of weapons" that included "as many as 20 different weapons."

But in a search of the home, law-enforcement officers reported finding one antique pistol, two handguns in a storage shed and numerous Vietnam-era manuals, including a 1965 Army Field Manual on booby traps.

Meryhew said Whitaker's former roommates contacted federal agents after they had been kicked out of the house and had been barred from Whitaker's home by a restraining order.

"If they had even looked for one minute at the backgrounds of the two people making the accusations this never would have happened," he said. "What this says is that anyone can get someone else arrested if they complain to the right federal agent."

A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency stands by its investigation of Whitaker and his arrest.

Spokeswoman Lori Haley said the agency will not investigate Whitaker's claims that his former roommates lied to federal agents. "All the evidence completely checked out and there is no evidence anyone lied," Haley said.