A jury took less than four hours to find Ronald Haddad Jr. guilty on all 30 counts of domestic terrorism Monday. Haddad, 38, was accused of sending threatening letters as well as substances and mock-explosive devices to numerous elected officials and oil company executives.
Judge Virginia Kendall set a July 21 date for sentencing. Haddad, who remains incarcerated prior to sentencing, faces a maximum of five years in prison on each of the 30 counts.
Prosecutors had no comments on the verdict except to say they “respect the jury’s verdict.”
The prosecution rested its case Monday morning after calling 32 witnesses. The defense immediately did the same, without calling any witnesses. Following closing arguments by both sides, Judge Kendall gave the jurors their instructions before breaking for lunch.
As they have since their opening statement, prosecutors hammered away at what they termed non-coincidental similarities between phrasing, words and topics in the numerous threatening letters and in two verified Haddad emails sent to Oak Park businessman Greg Sutor.
In the government’s first closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ridgway defined the legal meaning of “threat” and told jurors Haddad both intended to make threats and succeeded in scaring people.
“Fear is what the defendant sought and that is what he achieved with the people who opened his letters.”
Ridgway said there were clear connections between the two Haddad emails and the threat letters through “tell-tale language.” He and fellow prosecutor Joe Thompson showed the jury PowerPoint slides indicating specific instances, including the use of “sugar ethanol, 80 cents a gallon at the pump” in both the two emails and in several threat letters.
Even Haddad’s mistakes were in both the emails and some letters, Ridgway said. He pointed out the misspelled phrase, “The right to bare arms” is in both Haddad’s July 15, 2008 email to himself and in two threat letters.
“This isn’t just one big coincidence,” Ridgway argued.
Predicting the defense’s argument that Haddad’s fingerprints were found on none of the envelopes or letters, Ridgway said, “The defendant’s words were his fingerprints.”
Defense attorney Andrea Gambino told jurors the government hadn’t offered any objective evidence of Haddad’s guilt in the 28 mailed threats. She characterized the two emails as non-threatening.
“Ron Haddad sent emails to Sutor,” Gambino acknowledged. “Those emails were not threatening.”
As for the 28 envelopes and packages containing angry, threatening letters and various substances or amateur explosive devices, Gambino argued, “They haven’t even begun to prove that Mr. Haddad was the one (who sent them).”
Gambino characterized the two emails Haddad admits sending as angry and even violent calls for actions against people Haddad felt were victimizing him. But not, she insisted, threats.
“We don’t know who sent those letters, and the government doesn’t know either,” Gambino said.
Gambino stressed that no materials associated with the threat mail was found during a search of the Haddad residence, including any explosives, envelopes, stamps or copies of any of the threatening letters.
She ridiculed the government’s version of why Haddad had a copy of “The Vigilante Handbook,” saying it proved nothing.
“It’s like saying any of you who are fans of (television drama) ‘Breaking Bad’ are watching to learn how to make meth,” she said.
“No elements of the crimes were found in Haddad’s home,” she said.
Prosecutor Thompson jumped on the “Breaking Bad” analogy during his rebuttal closing, telling jurors, “It’s true that if you watch ‘Breaking Bad,’ it doesn’t mean you’re a meth dealer. But if you have instructions on how to make meth in your house, well, then maybe you are a meth dealer.”
Thompson urged jurors to not focus on a lack of DNA and fingerprint evidence.
“The defense wants you to focus on the evidence you don’t have and ignore the evidence you do,” Thompson said.
He also insisted a lack of incriminating evidence from a search of the Haddad home also proves nothing.
“Of course he didn’t keep the letters. You don’t keep that (incriminating) stuff in your house,” Thompson said.
Thompson echoed Ridgway’s closing, telling the jury Haddad was “not being prosecuted for what he thought or even wrote about. He’s being prosecuted for threatening people.”
“When he’s angry, he threatens people.”