Texas man reaches plea deal in pipeline blast case

FILE -This 2012 file photo provided by the Collin County Sheriff's Department shows Anson Chi. Chi has pleaded guilty, Monday, June 3, 3013, to trying to blow up a natural gas pipeline with a homemade bomb last year in suburban Dallas. (AP Photo/Collin County Sheriff, File)

PLANO, Texas (AP) — A Texas man who has described himself as a political activist pleaded guilty Monday to trying to blow up a natural gas pipeline with a homemade bomb last year in a Dallas suburb.

Anson Chi, 34, pleaded guilty to maliciously attempting to destroy an Atmos Energy natural gas pipeline in Plano that was used in interstate commerce, The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/18N1CTQ ) reported. He also entered a guilty plea to possessing an explosive device composed of methyl nitrate and other parts that was not registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

U.S. District Judge Richard Schell accepted Chi's plea, but will not impose the agreed-upon punishment until a pre-sentencing report is complete.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that as part of the deal, the Plano man would be sentenced to the maximum 20 years in prison on the charge of maliciously attempting to destroy the pipeline and two years for possessing the device.

Since the federal prison system has no parole or early release programs, Chi would be required to serve the full 22 years.

Authorities have said Chi detonated a bomb at a natural gas regulator station in June 2012 and was critically injured in the blast.

Police responding to 911 calls from residents about the explosion found the injured Chi, who initially claimed he had been jogging and was hit by a car. He has since recovered from his injuries.

Chi also faces a fine of up to $250,000 and could be ordered to pay restitution for any damages caused to Atmos Energy, plus the costs of his incarceration.

In court, he said he was indigent and would not be able to pay anything. The judge said Chi could file a personal financial statement to that effect.

A third count against Chi, carrying a destructive device during a crime of violence, is to be dismissed once a sentence is imposed at a later hearing. That charge would carry a punishment of no less than 30 years in prison.

Records show Chi had been a fugitive since 2009 in California, where authorities say he violated his probation on a concealed weapon conviction. By last year he was living with his parents in Plano.

Chi has lashed out against the government in YouTube and Facebook postings.


Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com