Perhaps Kevin Lee Robinson was desperate. Facing the possibility of life in prison because of an upcoming three-strikes trial, police say, he saw only one way out: Bomb the courthouse, destroy the evidence, remain a free man.
In the end, things didn’t turn out that way.
Robinson, 29, surrendered to Vallejo police Monday, accused of masterminding a farfetched plot to hobble the court system and postpone his trial - a trial scheduled to begin last Thursday when one of the bombs exploded at the courthouse.
Instead of freedom, he now faces federal explosives and conspiracy charges in the bizarre string of bombings that shocked this beleaguered San Francisco Bay Area city and captured headlines coast to coast.
Robinson allegedly hired five acquaintances to help plant the bombs, possibly promising them drugs or money to induce them to help him.
His surrender came one day after three of his alleged accomplices were arrested and nearly 500 pounds of dynamite were confiscated around town.
“In some sort of warped thinking, (Robinson) thought by destroying the police evidence room, the evidence (against him) would have been destroyed” and his prosecution thwarted, said Vallejo Police Chief Robert Nichelini.
In fact, the evidence in Robinson’s trial on drug charges already had been revealed at a previous hearing. No matter what he blew up, police said, his case would have gone forward as planned.
“None of this makes any sense,” Nichelini said. “But desperate people do desperate things.”
The courthouse bomb shattered 22 windows Thursday and blew out a chunk of wall while damaging four businesses on the surrounding block. Four days earlier, another bomb exploded outside a Wells Fargo Bank, damaging three automated teller machines in what may have been an effort to throw police off track.
Two other bombs were found and dismantled - one at the city library near a police evidence storage room Jan. 25, and one in the trunk of a car parked at an apartment complex Sunday. The two other men arrested Monday were identified as Orlando Johnson, 31, the owner of the car containing the dynamite, and Jason Pascual, 22.
Also in custody are Francis Ernestberg, 40, and brothers Oston and Ivan Osotonu, ages 24 and 22, who were arrested Sunday. All of the suspects live in Vallejo.
Sunday, federal agents seized 444 sticks of dynamite at several locations around the city. That included 61 sticks of dynamite wired in the trunk of Johnson’s car found outside an east Vallejo apartment.
“I’ve seen one stick of dynamite blow the floor out of a car,” said Mike Morrissey, assistant agent in charge at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in San Francisco. “We’re talking 60 times that force. If it blows, you get shrapnel and missiles flying through the air. It was a very, very dangerous situation for the public.”
Don du Bain, a Solano County deputy district attorney, was preparing to prosecute Robinson for the three-strikes case, which involved eight felony counts - five for possession for sale of cocaine, marijuana or heroin and three for possession of a firearm by a felon.
Because Robinson has two prior strikes as defined under California law, “any conviction of any (new) felony would have resulted in a minimum term of 25 years to life,” du Bain said.