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Judge reduces life sentence for man convicted of building a bomb that blew up a cop in Roslindale

A federal judge yesterday reduced Alfred Trenkler's life sentence to 41 years for his role in building a bomb that was supposed to destroy a friend's father's car in Roslindale in 1991, but which instead detonated when two Boston bomb-squad officers tried to defuse it, killing one and maiming the other.

The ruling means that, theoretically, Trenkler could walk out of prison in 2028 or so, when he is in his early 70s, based on him continuing to earn time for good behavior.

US District Court Judge William Smith discounted Trenkler's argument that Covid-19 was the "extraordinary and compelling" reason required by federal law to grant him a reduced sentence - and a transfer to a medical facility in Devens.

Although the disease initially put him at grave risk of death because he is an old, obese smoker who suffers serious heart and circulatory problems, stewing in a Tucson prison that proved incapable of controlling the spread of the virus, Smith noted that Trenkler recently got the first of two Moderna vaccine shots and that recent stats show that the prison, however inept it might have been at first, has since brought one of the nation's worst Covid-19 outbreaks behind bars under control.

Instead, Smith ruled that Trenkler had made his "extraordinary and compelling" case - required under the 2018 First Step Act - by proving that his life sentence was invalid because the judge at his trial had violated a federal law at the time that required juries to send somebody away for life, rather than letting judges do so.

Here, it is both extraordinary and compelling that (1) a judge sentenced a defendant to life imprisonment using a preponderance of the evidence standard where the controlling statute provided that a life sentence could be imposed only by the jury; and (2) there exists no available avenue for relief from this legal error.

Trenkler and his friend, Thomas Shay, Jr., were convicted of the death of BPD Officer Jeremiah Hurley and the wounding of Hurley's partner, Officer Francis Foley, outside 39 Eastbourne St., near the Mozart School in Roslindale, on Oct. 28, 1991.

Prosecutors said Shay wanted to kill his father to claim a $400,000 insurance settlement the father was expected to get and that Trenkler, who had already blown something up in Quincy, agreed to build a remote-controlled bomb - which exploded when the old man spotted it and Hurley and his partner arrived and tried to defuse it.

Trenkler has maintained his innocence through the years and in 2005 discovered a federal law at the time of his trial - which both the judge and his own attorney missed - under which the judge should have had the jury decide whether to send him away for life, rather than the judge making that determination. His trial judge, still on the bench at the time, agreed and in 2007 resentenced him to 37 years - which effectively would have been a life sentence if he met his life expectancy of 75 at the time he was found guilty. However, an appeals court then overturned that and resentenced him to life.

Smith did not rule that Trenkler was innocent, in fact, he said Trenkler "deserves little in the way of mitigating credit" because he was convicted of building a bomb that, even if the intent was only to scare Shay's father, not kill him, required considerable forethought to build, with the knowledge that it could very well kill somebody if it went off at the wrong time. He added that applies equally to the fact that Trenkler had no criminal record before his conviction and had been a well behaved prisoner.

The bomb easily could have killed more people, including children. This depravity cannot be ignored. So, even without a jury finding of intent to kill, the Court is left with an abiding conviction that Trenkler, at best, did not care who he killed.

After rejecting Trenkler's pleas of innocence, Smith continued that in coming up with a new sentence, he look at life expectancy today of a man of Trenkler's age, rather than his 1994 life expectancy. And that, Smith said, warranted a sentence of 41 years, or four more than the original non-life sentence he got in 2007.

In the Court's view, a sentence of 41 years would be one that reflects the seriousness of the offenses, promotes respect for the law, and provides just punishment for the offenses, while taking into account the history and characteristics of Defendant. Moreover, such a lengthy sentence under these conditions would also provide adequate deterrence (both specific and general) to criminal conduct. By the time Trenkler is released, he will have served over three decades (assuming good time) in U.S. Penitentiaries, including through a pandemic.

The Court is also satisfied that this sentence serves to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant. Defendant is, statistically speaking, very unlikely to reoffend.

PDF icon Complete ruling426.68 KB


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In the halls of justice. What happened to his partner Thomas Shay?

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Did a quick google search, this was the most recent article on him


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How could he be deemed a smoker after this many years behind bars?

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At Trenkler's trial, the thrust of the government's case was that Trenkler had built the Roslindale bomb for Shay Jr. to use against his father. To establish Trenkler's identity as the builder of the bomb, the government offered, inter alia, evidence that Trenkler had previously constructed a remote-control device, the Quincy bomb, which exploded in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1986. The government contended that unique similarities in design, choice of components, and overall modus operandi between the two bombs compelled the conclusion that Trenkler had designed and built both devices. Prior to trial, the government filed a motion in limine seeking to admit the "similarity" evidence. Following a day-long evidentiary hearing, the district court ruled the evidence admissible, finding that it was relevant on the issues of identity, skill, knowledge, and intent. Although Trenkler did not testify at trial, his counsel stipulated at the evidentiary hearing that Trenkler had built the Quincy bomb.3

1986 Quincy Bomb

Trenkler constructed the Quincy bomb in 1986 for a friend, Donna Shea. At the time, Shea was involved in a dispute with the owners of the Capeway Fish Market and she wanted the bomb to use as a means to intimidate them. At her request, Trenkler assembled a remote-control, radio-activated explosive device. The device was later attached to the undercarriage of a truck belonging to the Capeway Fish Market and detonated in the middle of the night. The resulting bomb blast caused no injuries and little property damage.

In building the Quincy bomb, Trenkler used as the explosive material a military flash simulator typically utilized to mimic gunfire in combat exercises. To provide remote-control capabilities, Trenkler employed a radio-receiver he had removed from a small toy car. Trenkler wrapped the bomb in duct tape and attached a large donut-shaped speaker magnet to enable the bomb to adhere to the undercarriage of the truck. Other components Trenkler used included a "double throw" toggle switch, four AA batteries, two six-volt batteries, an electric relay, solder, various wires, and a slide switch.

Testimony at trial established that Trenkler purchased some of the electrical components for the Quincy bomb from a Radio Shack store. On one occasion, Trenkler sought to obtain needed components by sending Shea's eleven-year-old nephew into a Radio Shack store with a list of items to purchase while Trenkler remained waiting outside. Shea's nephew, however, was unable to find all of the items, and Trenkler eventually came into the store to assist him.

1991 Roslindale Bomb

The government contended that Trenkler built the Roslindale bomb at Shay Jr.'s request. At trial, the government offered evidence about Trenkler's relationship with Shay Jr., dating back at least two years prior to the Roslindale bombing. Several witnesses, including Trenkler's business partner, reported seeing the two together on different occasions in 1990 and 1991. Shay Jr.'s address book included an entry for Trenkler listing his current pager number. Moreover, Trenkler's roommate at the time of the Roslindale bombing testified that, during September and October of 1991, Shay Jr. left several voice-mail messages on the pager for Trenkler.

Testimony from government investigators and Shay Sr. established that the Roslindale bomb was a remote-control, radio-activated device with an explosive force supplied by two or three sticks of dynamite connected to two electrical blasting caps. A black wooden box weighing two or three pounds and measuring approximately eight- to ten-inches long, five- to six-inches wide and one- to two-inches deep housed the bomb. A large donut-shaped magnet and several smaller round magnets attached to the box were used to secure the device to the underside of Shay Sr.'s automobile. Other components used in the construction of the bomb included duct tape, a "single throw" toggle switch, four AA batteries, five nine-volt batteries, a Futaba radio receiver, solder, various wires, and a slide switch.

According to the government's experts and Shay Sr., the bomb was originally attached to the undercarriage of Shay Sr.'s automobile directly beneath the driver's seat. The government's explosives expert testified that if the bomb had exploded while still attached to the car, it probably would have killed or at least seriously injured any individual sitting in the driver's seat.

The government also asserted that Trenkler used Shay Jr. to purchase the electronic components used in the bomb. In support of this assertion, the government introduced a sales receipt for a toggle switch purchased in October 1991 at a Radio Shack store located across the street from where Trenkler, at the time, was installing a satellite dish.4 Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ("ATF") recovered from the debris of the Roslindale bomb a switch identical to the one purchased. Shay Jr. admitted purchasing the switch during a taped television interview, portions of which the government introduced at trial.5 Furthermore, a sales clerk at the Radio Shack testified that, prior to purchasing the switch, the person who bought it had browsed in the store for several minutes, appearing to shop for items written on a list. The sales clerk also testified that he recalled seeing Trenkler in the store on two or three occasions during the fall of 1991.


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A number of places used a history of smoking as a prioritization factor for the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Whaaaa??? Now the Marathon Bomber has a chance???

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Unless his lawyers can prove there is another federal law that the judge completely missed (because the law in question here was subsequently replaced - judges no longer need to leave life sentencing to the jury).

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You might find this item of interest; http://www.freealfrednow.org/case-summary.html

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He deserves a lifetime jail sentence, in a maximum security penitentiary, with no parole!

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