Mercury attacks at Albany Med net man 14 years
Updated 10:08 p.m.
ALBANY Martin Kimber’s life unraveled quickly after he received a $9,000 bill from Albany Medical Center.
The 60-year-old, out-of-work pharmacist was enraged by the cost of treating what later turned out to be gangrene on his hand. But when administrators refused his appeals to wipe away the expense, Kimber began planting harmful amounts of mercury around Albany Med in a personal crusade to terrorize the hospital.
“He acknowledged his purpose in the mercury attacks were to cause panic,” Assistant U.S. District Attorney Craig Benedict said Thursday. “And at the time of his plea, he acknowledged that one of his purposes was to try to shut the facility down.”
Kimber never succeeded, but his four attacks on Albany Med and his subsequent arrest set him on course for the 14-year prison sentence handed to him in U.S. District Court on Thursday.
Judge Lawrence E. Kahn also ordered Kimber to forfeit his home in the Ulster County town of Ruby and his 2007 Pontiac Solstice. In addition, Kimber will have to pay $200,451 in restitution to Albany Med for the hazardous material response and decontamination — a cost that ironically doesn’t include his still-outstanding hospital bill.
Dressed in green Rensselaer County Jail garb and with his long, salt-and-pepper hair slicked back, Kimber appealed to the judge for leniency, claiming his plot against Albany Med was hatched while he was in an intoxicated state. Speaking somberly, he admitted his actions were reprehensible and that he’d have plenty of time to ponder his mistakes behind bars.
“It was despicable behavior,” he said before Kahn issued his sentence. “I wish I could go back.”
Kahn ultimately sided with prosecutors, who argued Kimber’s plot to shut down the hospital was part of an escalating pattern of destructive behavior he had exhibited for decades. Benedict said Kimber’s long history of intravenous drug abuse, alcoholism, racism and aberrant behavior made him a “smoldering time bomb” that was touched off after he received his bill in January 2011.
When authorities raided his house, they found two jars of mercury, 21 guns, child pornography, Nazi memorabilia, and literature one investigator described as “reflecting sympathy for domestic terrorism.” One of the novels found — “The Turner Diaries,” by prominent white separatist William Pierce — is widely regarded as a propaganda piece for far-right extremists inclined toward violence.
“A look at his full life reveals Martin Kimber is and will remain a dangerous person,” Benedict said.
Kimber initially sought treatment from Albany Med’s emergency room for what he described as a wrist injury caused by a fallen log. Physicians tried to admit him to the hospital for care, but he refused.
About two weeks later, Kimber returned to the hospital with a case of gangrene. He also admitted the injury was the result of insulin injections he was giving himself.
Kimber’s bill came the following month and included expenses incurred for a battery of tests the hospital ran in an attempt to diagnose his condition. Benedict said the amount would have been far less had he simply acknowledged his injections.
“He had a very complex series of tests for a possibly life-threatening disease that [his physicians] couldn’t understand based on what he said was the cause of it,” he explained.
Kimber, who spent nearly a decade working at Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie, argued he was on disability and couldn’t pay, but failed to convince administrators to cancel his bill. At the time, prosecutors say he had a net worth of roughly $500,000 and was receiving about $2,000 per month in disability payments.
About a month after Kimber’s exchange with Albany Med, employees started discovering visible amounts of mercury in “sundry locations” around the hospital. The discoveries then seemed to stop until a female employee eating at the hospital’s cafe noticed a ball of mercury on her food tray in March 2012. The woman tested positive for the element, but suffered no health problems.
Video surveillance cameras captured footage of a suspect that was distributed to the news media. Less than a month later, a tipster identified the man as Kimber.
James Long, Kimber’s attorney, vowed to appeal. He argued his client’s actions were those of a “troubled, severely depressed man” and not warranting a penalty harsher than the 10-year term outlined in federal sentencing guidelines.
“He does not need to be locked up and have the key thrown away,” he said.