I-Team: Prosecutors seeking long sentence for 'Bishop bomber'

April 11, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Tomkins was convicted last year of threatening numerous financial firms.

Never any broken bones and John Tomkins words never hurt anyone physically. But for more than two years this man who called himself "the Bishop" vowed death and destruction, rattling nerves from mailrooms to executive board rooms across the Midwest.

When Tomkins was caught, he had started sending dummy devices that authorities said was proof the real things would come soon. That's why they want him locked up for a long time.

For nearly two years, the Dubuque, Iowa, machinist mailed threatening letters to financial institutions, 17 letters and a few dud bombs that authorities said were intended to affect the prices of stock that Tomkins owned.

The salutation on each letter was "the Bishop." Some crime experts believe he patterned himself after the 1972 film "The Mechanic," in which Charles Bronson plays an assassin named Bishop.

In the film, Bronson's character says, "To get away with it depends on the book of rules you have in your pocket at the time."

And, like the Bronson character, Tomkins sent notes that read: "Bang!! You're dead."

However, nobody died in the real-life story, a case that authorities cracked by tracing threats sent through Chicago mail facilities.

In the sentencing memorandum filed Thursday, federal prosecutors in Chicago said, "The nature and circumstances of this offense are horrific," with Tomkins "threatening to kill those employees, their children, their co-workers, and their friends if the victims did not do as defendant demanded."

Because of that -- and evidence that Tomkins was on the verge of sending actual bombs -- next week, the government will ask for an unusually stiff sentence of between 42 and 45 years.

Prosecutors point to the terror felt by victims, who read this message: "I know who you are. I know where you live. I know where your family, friends, and co-workers live. And I can reach out and kill you or any of them, at any time."

Authorities contend the victims were traumatized for life and that the Bishop Bomber deserves such a long prison sentence because the bombs he built were functional, but for the attachment of one wire, which had it been connected they say the bombs would have instantly exploded, killing and harming anyone in the vicinity of the bomb.

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