A federal judge in Boston yesterday shaved five years off Leo Oladimu's sentence for conspiring to blow up the Holocaust Memorial, the Zakim Bridge or something of importance to African Americans in an attempt to spark a "racial holy war" in 2001.
US District Court Judge Indira Talwani said Oladimu's original sentence was too long because one of the charges against him turns out to be unconstitutionally vague and that prosecutors failed to provide the required three examples of him being a career criminal in his life before he arrived in Boston.
Before the ruling, Oladimu had been scheduled for release on Jan. 19, 2026.
In a separate ruling, Talwani rejected a request from Oladimu - known at the time of his conviction as Leo Felton - to be released immediately because of the potential risk of contracting coronavirus while behind bars.
Talwani said the former Felton doesn't merit any coronavirus-related early release because he is 49, has no health conditions that would put him at risk of severe complications and the government said he was being kept in a cell by himself, not with the three other inmates he claimed.
Oladimu, who changed his name from Felton in 2008, was convicted on 12 counts for a series of incidents in 2001 that included a bank robbery, conspiracy to rob an armored car, counterfeiting and acquiring the chemicals he needed to create an Oklahoma City-style bomb and a timer to set off the bomb, which he was beginning to build in the apartment he shared with his girlfriend on Salem Street in the North End as he pursued his goal of starting a war to eradicate Jews, blacks and other people he considered inferior. Oladimu's father is black; his mother white.
The pair's schemes began to unravel on April 19, 2001, when they stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts in East Boston and tried to use one of their bogus $20 bills to buy an iced coffee and the clerk accused them of passing a bad bill, which got the attention of an off-duty Boston cop who happened to be standing behind them in line. The date was, ironically, the anniversary of the Okahoma City bombing that the then Felton hoped to replicate.
An investigation ultimately led to their trial and convictions in 2002.
Felton's girlfriend received a five-year sentence. Felton was initially sentenced to 21 years, 10 months, after the judge in the case, Nancy Gertner, dismissed a charge of use of a handgun to further a violent crime, saying prosecutors had failed to link a gun investigators found to the bombing plot. Prosecutors appealed that ruling and won, and in 2006, Gertner added five more years to Felton's sentence.
In her ruling yesterday, Talwani said a 2019 Supreme Court decision means she had to subtract those five years again, both because the ruling determined the sort of conviction involved was unconstitutionally vague and because in order to prove Oladimu was an armed career criminal deserving of a sentence extension, prosecutors had to show particulars of at least three prior convictions for prior crimes.
Although Oladimu, as Felton, had four prior convictions, including for cracking open a New York cab driver's head with a tire iron and splitting open the scalp of a member of a Princeton fraternity whose beer he tried stealing, Talwani ruled that the US Attorney's office only provided sufficient proof that two of the incidents were "violent" under federal law.