Witness in Bouquet Bomb Case Breaks Silence, Blames Victim’s Mate
After a pep talk from his family and an order from a judge, the key prosecution witness in the bouquet bomb trial broke his silence Monday and told of years of domination by defendant Peter Pilaski, ending with an order to deliver a bomb to Pilaski’s wife.
Shaun Small, whose refusal to testify last week had left the prosecution case on the brink of dismissal, took the stand after a weekend of meetings with his mother and sister and blamed Pilaski, a wealthy real estate owner, for initiating the bombing.
Shortly after Melanie Pilaski filed for divorce in October, 1986, Small said, her husband called him on the telephone and asked him to make a bomb.
“I’m going to get the bitch,” Small quoted Pilaski as saying. “She’s going to regret to live to see tomorrow.”
A bomb concealed in a basket of dried flowers exploded in November, 1986, in the federal office building where Mrs. Pilaski worked, injuring her and a co-worker. Small, 28, has been convicted of knowingly delivering the bomb, and is serving a 15-year sentence; Pilaski, 53, is charged with manufacturing the bomb and conspiring with Small, and faces a possible 50-year term.
Small also spoke of 10 years of “total dependence . . . domination” while working as a property manager for Pilaski, and of making three trips to Florida in the last three years to keep himself and Pilaski supplied with cocaine.
In half a day on the witness stand, he was not asked about his alleged sexual relationship with Pilaski, described by Mrs. Pilaski in her testimony and by Assistant U.S. Atty. John Lyons in his opening statement. Pilaski has denied having a sexual relationship with Small.
Lyons acknowledged to the jury last week that he had a “one-witness case” that rested on the credibility of Small, the only one who could connect Pilaski with the bomb. But the prosecutor was jolted Thursday when Small took the witness stand and refused to swear to tell the truth.
In testimony Monday, Small’s sister, Sharon Daniels of Clarkson, Wash., and his mother, Nina Small of Fort Pierce, Fla., both said Small had told them at meetings Saturday and Sunday that he was afraid of retaliation against his family if he testified.
Both women said they had urged him to testify, and that he appeared to agree.
As another inducement, and at the insistence of Small’s lawyers, the Justice Department granted him immunity from prosecution for any crimes revealed by his testimony, including the Florida cocaine purchases and the destruction of a cabin at Clearlake, allegedly in an unsuccessful test of the bomb. U.S. District Judge Robert Schnacke then ordered Small to testify.
Speaking in a monotone with no trace of emotion, Small described meeting Pilaski in Florida in 1977, 22 years after his family had sponsored the West German engineer’s emigration to the United States. Pilaski kept his eyes down, sometimes half-closed, during most of the testimony, periodically shaking his head.
Pilaski first invited him to San Francisco as a teen-ager to have an eye condition diagnosed. Small said he eventually went blind in one eye, but meanwhile fell in love with the city and decided to return, based on what he took to be promises of a college education and a sharing of Pilaski’s real estate knowledge that had brought him wealth.
Instead, he found himself doing manual labor, constantly in Pilaski’s company or being summoned on the telephone--to the point where he hates the sound of a phone today--and with no life of his own.
“Whatever acquaintances I had were Pilaski’s acquaintances,” said Small, who referred to his former boss almost invariably by his last name during his testimony. " . . . Whatever social life I had was either with Peter or Melanie, mostly with Peter.”
He said he considered Mrs. Pilaski a “big sister,” but came to resent her after Pilaski told him she was responsible for his failing to get word that his father had died in 1980. Small was a week late for the funeral, and said his contact with his family declined drastically.
Small said he had nothing against Mrs. Pilaski’s parents, who refused to accept a second bouquet bomb that he tried to deliver. But he said he decided, “If he (Pilaski) wants me to do both, I’ll do both.”
Small said he tried to make a black-powder bomb, using material and books from his hobby of rocketry. But when he tested the bomb inside a neighbor’s cabin at Clearlake--at Pilaski’s orders and over his objections, he said--the bomb set fire to the cabin.
“He decided to make the bomb himself after mine fizzled,” Small said. He said he and Pilaski built both bombs on Small’s workbench, and planned to have Small deliver them in bouquets while Pilaski was in Germany. He said Pilaski made up a story for police about his wife being in trouble with drug dealers.
After donning a bellhop’s disguise and delivering the first bomb, Small said, he was heading back to his car on Market Street in San Francisco and nearly got run down by a fire truck responding to the explosion.