REDWOOD CITY -- A Pacifica man was convicted and sentenced to probation Friday for possessing several hundred bombs and nearly a thousand pounds of explosive material, a cache authorities alleged could have leveled nearby homes and killed two children living amid the stockpile.
Marc Ormando, 47, pleaded no contest to possessing destructive devices and illegal explosives at his home on Seaside Drive in Pacifica, on condition he spend no time in state prison. A pair of child endangerment charges, filed because his 10- and 7-year-old children were living in the home at the time of his arrest, were dropped as part of the plea bargain.
Ormando was arrested by San Francisco police March 6 after a months-long investigation into an explosives incident at a North Beach nightclub corridor, San Francisco police Sgt. Danielle Newman said. Investigators obtained a warrant to search his home after trying to purchase explosives undercover.
Authorities found a total of 938 pounds of explosive material, 732 barrel bombs and 44 pounds of black powder, as well as nine guns and eight rifles that were lawfully possessed. According to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, Ormando's children were living at the home at the time of his arrest.
"Had something occurred in one of the homes, it would have been catastrophic, and most certainly could have leveled homes and caused damage to the surrounding neighborhoods," Newman said in March.
Still, prosecutor Kari Gannam said the evidence against Ormando indicated he had no nefarious intent when it came to his explosives. The man was a skilled aficionado with no prior record, and he stored the explosives relatively safely in sealed, steel drums apart from one another.
"He is a pyrotechnic buff who attends conferences throughout the country to learn how the explosives could be used for special effects for fireworks shows, music videos, etc.," Wagstaffe said. He noted that the defense submitted multiple letters from community members discussing fireworks shows he put on for neighborhood kids.
"Although such explosives should not have been stored in a residential area and were very dangerous thereby, the manner of storage otherwise was with safety in mind," added Wagstaffe.
Ormando's attorney did not immediately return calls for comment.
The California Health and Safety Code defines an illegal explosive as any device consisting of an explosive pyrotechnic that exceeds 50 milligrams in weight, "in a fused container whose primary function is to produce an audible effect." According to Newman, the recovered devices had a pyrotechnic weight "in the (hundreds) of thousands" of milligrams, exceeding the legal limit for pyrotechnics thousands of times over.
Despite officials' early assumptions the case would be charged federally, Ormando was convicted in San Mateo County court and sentenced to only three years supervised probation. The man, whose bail was once set at $2 million and later reduced to $750,000, was released from jail and ordered to go through counseling; possess no weapons, ammunition or fireworks; and pay upwards of $100,000 to have the explosives removed from his home.
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