By ROXANA HEGEMAN
WICHITA -- A Kansas man added chemicals to gunpowder to increase the explosive power of grenades he was making, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday in opening remarks at his federal trial.
The government outlined its case against Alfred Dutton, of Eureka, in federal court Tuesday in Wichita. The 67-year-old veteran of both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marines is charged with possession of unregistered destructive devices.
His defense attorney in his opening statement portrayed his client as a tinkerer who was experimenting with also making fireworks and was working on the creation of a mock grenade that he was planning to sell on eBay.
Dutton was initially charged with two counts -- one for the grenades found in his apartment and another for five jars of homemade napalm with fuses attached found in a storage unit. He conditionally pleaded guilty to one count related to the napalm in a deal in which prosecutors dropped the grenades count.
The defense appealed, arguing the evidence found in the storage shed should have been suppressed because authorities lacked reason to suspect criminal activity at the storage unit. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed earlier this year, overturning the conviction and returning the case for more proceedings.
Dutton then withdrew his guilty plea, and prosecutors filed a new indictment charging him with the single charge related to the grenades in the apartment.
Jurors will be kept in the dark about the history of the case and the evidence of the napalm bombs found in the storage unit.
Even before the first juror was seated, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten also limited the government from presenting evidence of the Dutton's beliefs. Marten was referring to Dutton's preparations for the collapse of the world economy by stockpiling supplies, nonperishable foods, firearms and other items.
The judge told attorneys, outside the presence of any potential jurors, that he is not going to allow any evidence that tries to make the defendent out as "some kind of a nut." He said the government may only present evidence directly related to the manufacture of destructive devices.
"My main concern with respect to all of this is for Mr. Dutton not to be tried for what he believes may happen, but for what he actually did that was illegal," Marten said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Metzger recounted for the jury the investigation sparked by an August 2011 report to authorities in which the boyfriend of Dutton's ex-wife told authorities about conversations in which Dutton talked about making the grenades.
While some explosive devices can be possessed, they have to be lawfully registered, Metzger told jurors.
But defense attorney John Henderson told the jury that his client had a fascination with World War II, and at the time of his arrest was making a grenade as authentic as he could make it and still be legal.
"You will see pictures he took of his hand grenade to sell on eBay," Henderson said. "He was proud of it. He was looking forward to it."
Neal Tierney, an explosives expert with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, testified about all the explosive materials and ammunition found during the 2011 search of Dutton's apartment in Eureka. He showed the jury some of the grenades that Dutton had made.