Last Updated: 4:12 PM, April 24, 2012
Posted: 12:23 PM, April 24, 2012
A Manhattan jury has convicted a daffy but dangerous drifter of possessing a scary cache of guns, daggers and bullets -- weapons he somehow managed to fly coast to coast with two years ago.
James Edward O'Donnell, a dishonorably discharged Army private, was caught in March, 2010, wandering the Village with eight daggers strapped to his waist, a ninth dagger in his pocket, an illegal gun in his waistband and a silencer in a sock in his backpack after eagle-eyed plainclothes burglary cops saw him jiggling a padlock on a gated construction site.
Cops found more weapons in his storage locker on South Street -- another unlicensed gun, still more daggers, two more silencers, and 305 additional rounds of ammo.
O'Donnell, a bushy-bearded man who fidgeted slightly at the defense table as the foreman read the verdict, now faces at least 15 years prison at his yet-scheduled sentencing date.
Prosecutors asked that he receive a mental evaluation before his next court date, May 24, given what they described as psychiatric issues in his Army record.
Jurors deliberated for just over two hours; they convicted O'Donnell of 14 weapons possessions charges, but could not reach a version on four additional charges in which prosecutors had to prove O'Donnell actually intended to use the Glock and the daggers in his locker.
Those charges, which carry the same or equal prison penalties as those he was convicted on, were dismissed by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone, who explained, "They make no difference at sentencing."
Prior to taking the verdict, the judge denied a mistrial motion made by the defense after two jurors were overheard in an elevator talking about how deliberations were being delayed by the jury foreman, who was the lone juror to deadlock on the four intent to use charges.
Plane stubs showed O'Donnell had just flown from Seattle -- where he'd been dishonorably discharged -- to San Francisco, and from there on to Boston. From Boston, he'd taken a bus to New York a week before his arrest, all the while carrying his stash of armaments.
The items had been his checked luggage on the two Delta flights, his lawyer said. "Where was the FAA?" the lawyer asked reporters after the verdict. "It's really outrageous."
A resident of Germany for six years before being deported in the early 2000s, he had no drivers license and no Social Security number -- and was only ID'd for certain after his mouth was forcibly swabbed for DNA after his arrest.
"This is a very unusual case," his lawyer, Howard Simmons, had conceded in closing statements yesterday. It just makes no sense, the lawyer argued, for O'Donnell to have flown unimpeded with so much weaponry. Perhaps his client had been involved in some "special forces" work, the lawyer hinted.
But O'Donnell had been discharged from the Army a year prior to his arrest, and "They don't let you take the tank home," countered prosecutor Robert Walker. O'Donnell lived in Germany before enlisting and had been en route to Amsterdam when arrested -- he never explained why -- and has been held in lieu of a whopping $2 million bail.