Man Cites Mental Illness in Bomb Case Guilty Plea

Times Staff Writer

A Garden Grove man pleaded guilty Monday to making a bomb that detonated outside the Santa Ana campaign headquarters of Rep. Loretta Sanchez last year, seriously injuring him but no one else.

Hai Duc Le, 36, initially was charged with using a weapon of mass destruction but pleaded guilty in federal court to reduced charges.

Though prosecutors declined to say what they thought his motivation was, Le and his attorney said he was mentally disturbed.

Le, whose face and hands are scarred from the blast, told the judge that he was “depressed and did a lot of things wrong.”


“I was confused; I didn’t know it was illegal [to make a bomb],” he said. “I remember I was holding it. I was trying to complete it. I don’t know what went wrong.”

Le also told the court that he suffers from mental illness and auditory hallucinations but that his condition has improved since he has been taking medications.

Le pleaded guilty to one count of making a destructive device and one count of possessing a destructive device. Prosecutors dropped the more serious charges of using a weapon of mass destruction and maliciously destroying buildings and cars.

Although Le could face up to 20 years in prison, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney said he would order Le, who has no criminal history, to two years in prison when he is sentenced in February.

Prosecutors said Le spent three months gathering PVC piping, glue, duct tape, nails, screws, gunpowder, a remote control and other materials to make the 16-inch-long bomb.

On June 15, 2003, Le parked his car in front of the campaign office of Sanchez (D-Anaheim) at a shopping strip near the intersection of Harbor Boulevard and McFadden Avenue. He listened to music in his car for about 15 minutes before the bomb exploded in his lap, police said. Le suffered severe injuries to his face, arms and torso.

Santa Ana police initially suspected the bomb was linked to a Vietnamese cafe in the shopping strip, and federal authorities said Le may have meant to attack Sanchez’s office.

The office was closed, and Sanchez was not in Orange County, but her staff was handling an immigration matter for one of Le’s family members.