Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

October 30, 2012

Jurors hear tapes in court

Recording of Biederman, scammer played at trial

CATLETTSBURG — Jurors in the Thomas Biederman trial on Tuesday heard a tape-recorded conversation between Biederman and one of the scam operators who had been bilking his father-in-law, and who Biederman told authorities he believed might be responsible for the July 28, 2011, car bombing that injured his wife, Janie.

The 10-woman, four-man panel also heard a federal agent express disbelief — on tape and in person — that it was Biederman who broached the subject of bombs with the scammer.

The conversation was actually heard twice, the first time during a recording of an interview with Biederman and his son, Ryan, in October of last year by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Agents Rob Young and Gary Smith. Biederman played the tape for the agents during the course of the  interview.

“Have you ever planted a bomb before?” Biederman can he heard asking on the tape. The man on the other end, in a an odd, flat voice that sounds as though it may have been electronically altered, adamantly denies doing so, at one point telling Biederman: “ ... I don’t do bombs.”

Later in the interview, Young asks Biederman why he was the one who brought up the subject of bombs.

“That’s a very odd thing to me that you’d do that,” he said.

According to testimony, the scammers fleeced several thousand dollars out of Janie Biederman’s father, Jack Riggs, by promising him cash and a new Mercedes-Benz if he’d wire them money to pay the fees to get the car into the country. Thomas Biederman told authorities he believed the scammers may have been involved in the car bombing because they’d made threats against his life.

On the tape, the scammer is heard asking Biederman is he owned a gun; Biederman replies he owned several. The man then tells Biederman if he is going to shoot him with his own gun.

However, Biederman laughs off the threat and later in the conversation tells the man he’s not concerned because “You pose no threat to me.”

“There was certainly an antagonist in that conversation, and that antagonist was the defendant,” Young said from the witness stand.

Russell Assistant Police Chief Adam Davis said essentially the same thing, testifying he believed Biederman was “toying” with the scammers and “trying to get their goat.”

Biederman’s attorney, Michael Curtis, requested the tape of Biederman and the scammer be played a second time for the jury during Davis’ testimony. Biederman turned the tape over to Davis after reporting the scam to Russell police in September 2011.

Prosecutors contend the Jamaican scammers are part of an elaborate smoke screen concocted by Biederman to divert attention from his own involvement in the attempt on his wife’s life. In his opening remarks on Monday, Boyd Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jason Greer said the crime was financially motivated. According to Greer, Biederman stood to collect $430,000 from two separate life insurance polices had his wife been killed in the explosion, which took place in the parking garage of the Ashland Skytower.

Biederman is charged with attempted murder and use of a weapon of mass destruction. He could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison if he is convicted of both charges.

During his testimony, Young,  an explosives specialist assigned to the ATF’s Lexington Field Office, repeated a contention made the previous day by Smith, his fellow agent — that the likelihood of the bomb being planted in Janie Biederman’s Ford Mustang after the she arrived for work on the day of the blast was extremely remote.

Young said wiring of the device to the car’s left brake light was a complex operation, akin to installing an aftermarket car stereo. He said he doubted anyone could pull it off without being seen, especially since the vehicle was parked three spaces away from the garage’s main entrance.

Young also said the fact Janie Biederman’s key fob remote control — which locked and unlocked the car’s doors and also caused the lights to flash — had been disabled by reversing the battery indicated the bombing wasn’t a random act.

“That key fob was deactivated with a purpose,” he said. “They took an extra step to make sure (the bomb) was targeting an individual, not a vehicle.”

But during a testy cross-examination, Curtis challenged Young’s contention the bomb was intended to kill Janie Biederman and not a random individual.

“You’ve heard of serial bombers, right?” 

Curtis and Young also sparred about a hair found on a piece of duct tape Young used to label a electrical component taken from the trunk of the Mustang following the explosion. Young said the tape came out of his car and he saw no need to have the hair tested for DNA because it likely came from someone who’d been in his car.

“It (the hair) was something I introduced,” he said, also explaining the purpose of the tape label was to show where he had cut the wires to remove the part from the vehicle.

Curtis asked Young why he hadn’t used a method that wouldn’t have “contaminated” the evidence, such a sealing the part in a plastic bag. Because, Young said, that wouldn’t have shown where the cuts were made.

“It was the best method I had available to me at the time, sir,” he said. “I’ve worked thousands of crime scenes. I’m not sure how many you’ve worked.”  

Day six of testimony was scheduled to begin at 9 this morning in Judge George W. Davis III’s courtroom.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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