An angry loner “waged a campaign of terror by mail” when he sent threatening letters, shotgun shells and fake anthrax to Chicago politicians and oil company executives, prosecutors said Wednesday.
But a lawyer for River Forest man Ron Haddad say there’s no evidence he mailed the threats to figures including former Mayor Richard M. Daley and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, describing similarities between the anonymous threat letters and Haddad’s online “diary” as entirely coincidental.
Haddad, 33, is standing trial on charges that he sent 28 threatening letters between 2007 and 2009, in which he ranted about Chicago’s controversial parking meter deal, the city’s “spy camera” program and oil prices, threatening to kill politicians if they didn’t lower taxes and leave office.
Some envelopes contained white or brown powder that flew all over the politicians’ office staff when they were opened; others had shotgun shells stuck to firecrackers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Thompson said in his opening statement Wednesday afternoon.
All were “rigged so that they (caused) terror,” Thompson said, describing the fear that office staff felt when they were quarantined while Hazmat workers determined if they’d been poisoned.
Though no fingerprints or DNA was recovered from the letters that could be linked to Haddad, Thompson said authorities became suspicious when a contractor Haddad had hired forwarded emails in which Haddad threatened River Forest Police.
A further search of Haddad’s home, where he lived with his parents, revealed a vigilante handbook that explained how not to leave fingerprints and a treasure trove of emails Haddad had sent that used language and expressed political concerns “almost identical” to those in the threatening letters, prosecutors say.
“His words were his fingerprints,” Thompson told jurors.
Haddad’s trial was repeatedly delayed because he fired his first four attorneys. Initially declared unfit to stand trial by a psychiatrist who found him to be delusional, he was later deemed fit by four other doctors.
He fired his fifth attorney, Andrea Gambino, on the eve of his trial Tuesday, electing to represent himself, but had a last minute change of heart and reinstated her Wednesday morning.
As Gambino laid out his defense Wednesday, Haddad’s facial tick — a twitching of his left eyebrow — flared up.
Gambino warned jurors that they “may or may not agree with (Haddad’s) political opinions, and you may find some of his language and imagery offensive.” But she said Haddad never made any specific threats in the emails and denied he wrote the threatening letters.
“Words float freely through the universe,” she said, adding that articles about Mayor Daley’s controversial parking meter deal, the city’s security camera program and oil prices were widely published by the media and could have inspired anyone to write the letters.
“There simply isn’t any evidence” directly linking Haddad to the letters, she said.
Though most of the letters were opened by administrative assistants, and not the high-powered politicians and executives to whom they were addressed, prosecutors say former Ald. Bernie Stone and former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley’s son, investment banker William Daley, will testify about the fear they felt when they opened letters.