October 1, 1997 in Nation/World

Fourth Bomber Convicted Ratigan Found Guilty Of Bank Robbery And Attack On Clinic

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Brian Ratigan faces at least 50 years in federal prison for bombing a family planning clinic and robbing a bank in the Spokane Valley.

The former Army sniper was convicted Tuesday of igniting a pipe bomb outside a Planned Parenthood clinic on July 12, 1996, and carrying a semiautomatic assault rifle during the $37,000 robbery of U.S. Bank minutes later.

A 12-member U.S. District Court jury, after deliberating six hours over two days, was convinced Ratigan was the fourth man involved in the domestic terrorism.

He was convicted of five counts returned earlier this year by a federal grand jury.

“Case closed,” federal prosecutor Tom Rice said as he and fellow prosecutor Joseph Harrington talked with reporters after the verdict.

“We expect the normal appeals that come in cases like this, but we’re confident this conviction will be upheld,” Rice said.

Harrington said he is pleased the jury believed the testimony of key prosecution witnesses Warren Day and Loren Berry.

Both men said Ratigan admitted his involvement in the July 12 crimes after his friends, Charles H. Barbee, Robert S. Berry and Verne Jay Merrell, were arrested last October.

Those three men were convicted in July and face mandatory life imprisonment for April 1 and July 12 bombings and bank robberies.

After the arrests of Barbee, Berry and Merrell, Ratigan, with his wife and two sons, lived as a fugitive for six months.

Ratigan, 39, confessed his involvement in the bombing and robbery during a prayer meeting with fellow white separatists, testimony showed.

After staying in safe houses near Sandpoint, the Ratigans moved in the middle of the night to a rental home near Colville, Wash.

Ratigan drove his pickup back to Sandpoint and abandoned it there, hoping to keep investigators off his tracks. He even gave his wife and kids phony names.

He was arrested March 13 at the Amtrak train depot in Spokane, after his mother gave him one-way tickets to New York.

Mistakenly, the Ratigans arrived a day early for the train. And the tickets turned out to be phony, too. He was tricked by his mom and the FBI. Agents dressed as baggage handlers were waiting when the Ratigans, claiming to be the O’Briens, arrived at the train station.

On Tuesday, Ratigan sat impassively as the jury verdict was read. He appeared to mumble something, holding his palms upward in a “gee-whiz” gesture.

Ratigan was found guilty of conspiracy, armed bank robbery, malicious destruction of a building and two counts of using a firearm in a violent crime.

U.S. District Judge Frem Nielsen set sentencing for Dec. 12, after an extensive background report is written about Ratigan by a federal probation officer.

When Ratigan was told the probation officer was a woman, he rolled his eyes and shook his head.

Witnesses testified that Ratigan and his white-separatist friends refer to women as “cows” and believe they should be subservient to men.

Ratigan’s court-appointed attorneys, Terry Ryan and Don Kellman, declined comment on the verdict. Ratigan’s wife, Tina, who sat through the trial, waved to her husband as he was led away by federal marshals.

His father, William Ratigan, of Troy, N.Y., said prosecutors didn’t put on a convincing case. “I didn’t think he’d be found guilty, not with the evidence I heard,” said the 67-year-old retired truck driver.

In Seattle, FBI regional boss Burdena Pasenelli said the Valley bombing and robbery case was the region’s priority during the past 18 months. At least 200 agents in Washington, Idaho and Oregon were assigned at various times to the investigation.

“The jury’s quick verdict was the result of much hard work by investigators from the FBI, ATF and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department, and the prosecutorial efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s office,” she said.

“It’s absolutely essential in our society to bring people like this to justice,” Pasenelli said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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