Judge finds probable cause for man who built explosives in trailer park
BATON ROUGE - Wednesday morning, 24-year-old Jordan Sergent appeared in court for allegedly manufacturing bombs inside his trailer home in Baton Rouge. This is the second time he's been in court this month related to the crime.
Shortly after 9:30 a.m., Magistrate Judge Wilder-Doomes, of the Federal District Court downtown, explained that since Sergent is charged by criminal complaint, the court must determine whether or not there is probable cause.
U.S. Attorney Adam Ptashkin argued that a statement from the previous detention hearing, police reports and self-admittance by Sergent that he created the bombs on the lot of his trailer park, are all enough evidence to constitute probable cause.
Sergent's defense attorney, Dustin Talbot, objected. Talbot said none of those claims were based on personal knowledge of the situation. The judge overruled the objection.
The defense had two main arguments. Talbot first argued there were no witnesses with personal knowledge of the case. Talbot said that since there was no live witness testimony, the defense did not have a chance to cross-examine witnesses. He said it was his client's constitutional right to cross-examine his accusers.
Secondly, Talbot said that the devices do not meet the definition of the crime charged. He said there is no question that Sergent made the devices, since Sergent acknowledged that when he talked to police and when he talked to his brother on a jailhouse phone. However, the question remains whether or not they were unlawful devices.
Talbot argued the devices are not illegal unless they are intended to be used as weapons. He argued there is no proof that Sergent was planning to hurt anyone. Talbot said the devices were found with Sergent's hunting equipment, and there is no evidence they were not built to blow up a beaver dam on his farm. He said the government does not have any actual evidence to prove that Sergent was a disgruntled individual with a motive to harm.
Ptashkin then took the stand. Ptashkin argued that the law does not require proof of intent to harm, but proof that the devices were designed to harm. He argued that the devices were designed as explosives since there were BB's inside of them. He said the ATF lab in Atlanta confirmed after their preliminary examination that the device met the definition of a destructive device.
The court took a short recess around 10 a.m. to allow the judge to review relevant documentation.
The judge returned shortly after and concluded that since probable cause is a low standard, there are reasonable grounds to believe that Sergent committed the crime. She said the court finds probable cause since both the ATF and a sergeant involved in the case believe the devices were built in a way that could cause serious injury or death. She said that the only purpose BB's serve is to hurt an individual.
Sergent was remanded to the marshal pending further proceedings.
People who appeared to be family or friends of Sergent met his lawyer outside the courtroom following the hearing. Talbot took their contact information, and told them they had a "big fight" ahead of them.
Talbot declined comment for an interview. The prosecutor was not available following the hearing.