UPDATE: Man pleads guilty in Rotterdam bombing case
SCHENECTADY Lawrence Ahrens, the man who orchestrated a bombing campaign against a romantic rival in Rotterdam last year, pleaded guilty to related charges Monday.
Ahrens, 34, admitted arson and weapons counts in exchange for a sentence of 15 years in state prison. He had originally faced a host of charges that could have put him in prison for up to life. He is to be sentenced Oct. 10.
In court Monday morning, Ahrens at times appeared reluctant to take the plea deal, but he soon admitted that he was guilty of the crimes and that he directed others to commit them.
Prosecutor John Healy said his office made the offer because ultimately no one got injured. The two victims — Ahrens’ former girlfriend and her new boyfriend, the target of the bombing campaign — also approved of the offer.
“Nobody was hurt, that was the main thing,” Healy said afterward.
Ahrens’ attorney, Cheryl Coleman, said he pleaded guilty after multiple discussions about the case and the evidence.
The evidence, she said, included recorded phone calls, one of them set up by police after a co-conspirator was arrested but before Ahrens knew of the arrest. The co-conspirator was arrested after the last bombing, leaving the target’s home.
“There were pretrial rulings in this case that let a lot of evidence come in,” Coleman said.
Ahrens was accused of leading the scheme, recruiting others to damage the rival’s home using explosives.
On March 17, 2012, a bomb was detonated on the man’s front porch and smashed his bedroom window as he slept. A week later, another device was detonated near a dormer on the second floor of the home, causing damage to the roof.
Ahrens pleaded guilty Monday to one count each of second-degree arson and first-degree criminal possession of a weapon. The arson count relates to the March 17 bombing. The weapons count relates to a device Ahrens possessed in a garage at the time of his arrest.
Early in the court appearance, Coccoma asked Ahrens if he was pleading guilty because he was, in fact, guilty.
Ahrens first responded that he wasn’t guilty, that he was taking a plea deal. After consulting with his attorney, though, Ahrens confirmed he was guilty.
“Is that the truth?” Coccoma responded. Ahrens said it was.
Ahrens said he paid the others to commit the crimes, but he didn’t remember how much.
Ahrens also said he understood that he was guilty of the arson as the person who directed the act, even though he didn’t do the act himself.
He described the explosive device he admitted to possessing as flash powder compressed in a tube, and said he had gotten it from a friend.
Three others were charged in connection with the case; all have since pleaded guilty.
Michael Chambers, 34, of Draper Avenue, Rotterdam, pleaded guilty in October 2012 to related charges. He faces between 10 and 15 years in state prison at his sentencing.
Amy Brzoza, 32, of Kellar Avenue, Rotterdam, faces 41⁄2 to 131⁄2 years after pleading guilty to related charges in October 2012. It was Chambers and Brzoza who were arrested leaving the scene of the final bombing.
The other person pleading guilty to related charges was Michael Garry, 32, of Glenville Street, Rotterdam. Garry pleaded guilty in September 2012 to an arson count for detonating a device on the target’s truck. He faces five to 15 years at his sentencing.
Ahrens remains free on $250,000 bond, which was posted over the summer. Coccoma made it clear to Ahrens that he must show up for sentencing and not commit any crimes until then.
If he does either, the judge won’t have to go along with the agreed-upon prison term and could sentence Ahrens consecutively to the maximum time on both counts, a total of 50 years. Ahrens indicated he understood.