Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Caltech grad student won't be retried in SUV bombings

November 10, 2009 |  6:57 pm

A Caltech graduate student whose conviction and sentencing for a 2003 bombing spree against SUVs in the San Gabriel Valley was overturned in September won't be retried, the U.S. attorney's office has decided.

Instead, William Cottrell will be resentenced Monday on the one remaining count of conspiracy where his conviction still stands, a charge that carries a 10-year maximum, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

Cottrell, 29, was convicted in 2004 for arson attacks on the night of Aug. 22, 2003, that damaged or destroyed 125 vehicles at dealerships and in residential areas of Duarte, West Covina, Arcadia and Monrovia. Two fellow graduate students who were alleged accomplices in the environmental protest left the country and escaped prosecution.

  In September, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Cottrell's convictions in seven of the eight counts against him and vacated his 100-month sentence, about two-thirds of which he had already served.

Mrozek declined to say why prosecutors decided against a retrial. "I'm not going to comment on our deliberative process inside the office," he said.

But he said that the remaining count carries a 10-year maximum sentence and that "it is certainly within the judge’s discretion to reimpose the 100-month sentence he initially received and that is what I expect we will argue on Monday."

The resentencing hearing will be before U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner, in whose court Cottrell was tried five years ago. The 9th Circuit panel reversed the District Court ruling because Cottrell had not been allowed to present evidence during his trial that his suffering from Asperger's syndrome prevented him from forming the specific intent to commit the arson attacks.

At trial, Caltech professors testified that Cottrell was a brilliant and promising physics scholar and his attorneys had appealed for leniency from the judge.

-- Carol J. Williams