Authorities say the MacDill airman made and sold two pipe bombs to an undercover agent.
By GRAHAM BRINK and CURTIS KRUEGER
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 16, 2000
An airman from MacDill Air Force Base was arrested Friday and charged with building and then selling pipe bombs to an undercover agent.
Robert Young Denham, 20, was led into federal court dressed in fatigues and shackled at the ankles. He is charged with one count each of transferring pipe bombs and transferring explosive materials.
In November, according to court documents, Denham sold two homemade pipe bombs to an undercover agent from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. The agent told Denham on at least one occasion that he planned to use the bombs to intimidate an adversary or damage property, the records said.
A prosecutor told the judge that two pipe bombs were found in Denham's apartment at the Friendship Villas on Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park. The agents also found materials to build more pipe bombs in a box in the living room, they said. Denham's wife, Brandy, who was not charged, was present during one of the sales and asked for the money herself, the prosecutor said.
Denham wept when he was first brought into the courtroom. He quickly regained his composure and answered the judge with "yes, ma'am" or "no, ma'am."
Denham has been in the service about two years and is a mechanic with the 6th Transportation Squadron. He cannot receive military pay and benefits while incarcerated, said Capt. Darren Berry, chief of public affairs at MacDill. But if he gets out on bail, there is a wide range of options, Berry said. He could go back to his job or be under some restrictions.
The magistrate judge set a $50,000 bail, which Denham's wife and sister-in-law didn't think they could raise.
"It's just not possible right now," Brandy Denham, who is eight months pregnant, told her husband's federal public defender as tears welled in her eyes. "We don't have that much."
The arrest surprised Denham's friends and neighbors.
Chris Stidham, 32, a painter and assistant manager at Friendship Villa, said Denham and his wife were quiet, dependable people who did not get into trouble, and who were looking forward to the birth of their first daughter. He had been fishing with Denham, played horseshoes with him and had barbecues.
Denham never mentioned explosives, he said.
"I don't believe it one bit," Stidham said. "I can't believe it one damn bit."
Jacqueline Elder, 28, who works at a beauty supply shop and lives at Friendship Villa, described Denham as the kind of guy who would help people out if they were in a jam. He once defended her when a man tried to whack her with a beer bottle.
"You could see everyone's in shock," she said.
If convicted, he faces a maximum 20-year sentence and $260,000 fine.