A Tempe man pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a pipe bomb and a machine gun Wednesday in an agreement reached with the federal government.
Laro Nicol, a former Phoenix-Goodyear Airport air traffic controller and father of three, said the prospect of spending more time behind bars motivated him to take the plea.
"When presented with the choices that I was given, I really feel very strongly that I must choose that path which will reunite me with my children with the least amount of separation," Nicol wrote in an e-mail message.
Nicol, a former U.S. Marine, was arrested March 4, 2003, by agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He spent about 2 1 /2 months in federal custody on suspicion of unlawfully possessing explosives and unlawfully possessing firearms on the grounds he is an illegal drug user, court records state.
In his plea Wednesday before U.S. District Court Judge Paul G. Rosenblatt in Phoenix, Nicol admitted to possessing a pipe bomb, consisting of a PVC pipe sealed with explosive materials and a fuse. Nicol said he made the device as a firework, but acknowledged it could injure someone if it were set off.
Nicol also admitted having an unassembled machine gun, and had used methamphetamine, said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sandy Raynor in a release.
Convictions for the two charges could each carry maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Nicol’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 9.