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Wisconsin man pleads to explosives charge, will serve probation

9/13/2012

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Originally intended as a "prank," the Wisconsin man responsible for constructing the explosives device found during a routine traffic stop in mid-August pleaded no contest Wednesday to a reduced charge.

Steven Wright, 22, Rice Lake, Wis., pleaded no contest to charges of attempted criminal use of explosives and possession of methamphetamine during a hearing Wednesday afternoon in Ellis County District Court.

District Judge Glenn Braun ultimately found Rice guilty of the charges and ordered a presentence investigation. His sentencing tentatively has been set for Oct. 15.

Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees said he anticipates Wright will receive probation on the charges, although there's no agreement on a sentence in the plea agreement.

What the plea agreement does spell out, however, is any probation Wright might receive would be spent in his home state of Wisconsin.

The discovery of the improvised explosive device came Aug. 15, when police pulled Rice over on a routine traffic stop by the Hays Police Department in the 100 block of West 10th.

Officers spotted a device in the front seat of Rice's pickup, a duct-taped plastic bottle with a fuse extending from it.

According to Drees, who read from the affidavit supporting the filing of the original charges, Wright told police he had disassembled an aerial fireworks display.

He took the black powder from that device, put it in a coffee cup, which was placed inside a plastic soft drink bottle. The bottle was then filled with expanding foam, and the entire object was wrapped tightly with duct tape.

A fuse extended from the top of the bottle.

The idea behind the device, Drees said while reading from the affidavit, was Wright was "hoping to set it off at his job site as a prank." He reportedly had been hoping to cause a loud explosion.

Defense attorney Paul Oller also told Braun the device had been intended as a prank.

The device ultimately was exploded by the Kansas Fire Marshal's office and the Kansas Highway Patrol and did produce a loud explosion.

Wright was returned to the Ellis County jail pending his sentencing.