Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Mad Bomber

The discovery of an improvised bomb in New York City yesterday brings to mind a previous bomb, or rather, series of bombs in the 1940's and 1950's.

More than thirty small pipe bombs were placed in phone booths, subways and theater seats in NYC. No one was killed; more than a dozen people were injured. Some of the bombs did not explode and were discovered months after they had been planted. Several bombs rolled out onto the work benches of upholsterers who were attempting to repair theater seats that had apparently been vandalized.

In 1957, police arrested 53-year-old George Metesky and a grand jury handed down 47 charges, ranging from attempted murder to violation of the Sullivan Act (well, he did have to carry those bombs, didn't he?).

I thought it was interesting that the newspapers used the word "terrorism" in their headline, back in 1957:
The second headline could have been written by Monty Python (falsetto): "He was a quiet man, but handy with a fuse!"

A psychiatrist consulted by the NYPD in an early example of criminal profiling, predicted that when arrested, the bomber would be wearing a double-breasted suit, buttoned.

Metesky held a grudge against Con Edison for a workplace accident in 1931 that had exposed him to harmful chemicals and disabled him. He was never tried, but sent to a mental institution; it was thought that, due to his advanced tuberculosis, he would only live a few weeks. Instead he responded to treatment and completely recovered from the disease.

Metesky spent nearly 18 years in mental institutions. In 1973 he received a new psychiatric evaluation and was declared "harmless". Since he had never been convicted of anything, he petitioned a court for his release. Because he had already served two-thirds of the 25-year maximum sentence he would have received had he been convicted, he was released. The judge told him, "not to do it again." A good thing he did, too, because Metesky later told a reporter that he was still angry with Con Edison.

George Metesky died on May 23, 1994.

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