North Carolina airport bomb suspect pleads guilty

USA Today Network Published 1:39 p.m. ET Jan. 12, 2018

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The man who allegedly left an explosive device at a regional North Carolina airport in October pleaded guilty in federal court Friday.

Michael Christopher Estes, 46, was initially charged with attempted malicious use of explosive materials and unlawful possession of explosive materials in an airport. He pleaded guilty to the latter count — which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine — said Lia Bantavani, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina.

Estes admitted in court Friday that he bought the materials for the bomb he built and left by the baggage claim of Asheville Regional Airport in the early hours of Oct. 6. Estes told federal law enforcement that he planned to "fight a war on U.S. soil," according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

More: N.C. airport bomb suspect wanted 'to fight a war on U.S. soil,' complaint says

On the components of the explosive device with which Estes planned to fight that war, he had written "FOR GOD AND COUNTRY" and "FOR ALL THE V/N VETS OUT THERE!!!," according to plea documents.

Attached to the bomb was a clock with an alarm positioned to go off at 6 a.m., but Estes hadn't set the alarm. He told federal agents that "his intention was not to hurt the public but to devise a training scenario," Bantavani wrote in a news release. 

Authorities at the airport were alerted of the "suspicious bag" containing the bomb at about 6:30 a.m., roughly six hours after Estes left it there. 

Video footage from the airport showed an individual walking onto airport grounds at 12:39 a.m. on Friday. He was wearing black clothing and a black cap and carrying a bag.

"Based on a review of the video, the individual walked near the entrance to the terminal, went out of sight momentarily, and was then seen departing the area without the bag," the criminal complaint released in October stated.

No one was injured in the incident.

A sentencing date for Estes has not yet been set. 

Contributing: John Boyle, Asheville (N.C.) Citizen Times. Follow Sam DeGrave on Twitter: @sgdegrave

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