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Analyst: Set explosives could have been "similar to the Boston Marathon bombing, legally"

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Posted at 12:48 PM, Nov 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-03 14:48:55-04

NEDERLAND, Colo. -- Federal authorities continue their investigation as prosecutors continue preparing their case against a man accused of setting what is now being described as a weapon of mass destruction in Boulder County outside a police headquarters there. 

Denver7 legal analyst Dan Recht, with RechtKornfeld PC, explained charges released earlier in the week that say David Ansberry, 64, "did knowingly use and attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction, namely, a destructive device." 

According to Recht, the charge doesn't give any insight into what weapon Ansberry allegedly constructed, as charges of using a weapon of mass destruction have a broad description. The description opens the door to any weapon that could injure many people. 

Although the charge isn't specific and defined, it's not common in the U.S.

"It is not a common charge, although it's defined very broadly, but rarely do you see something of this level of difficulty," Recht said. 

Recht called a weapon sophisticated enough to fall under charges of a weapons of mass destruction charge both sophisticated and highly unusual. 

Police have said the threat was "very real" to those in the Nederland shopping center, which houses shops, the town's police headquarters and more.

MORE | Read the background on police response as the device was defused

In a criminal complaint, police say Ansberry attempted to trigger the bomb to detonate remotely. Police suggest if that happened, there would have been deaths. 

Recht said if the bomb had detonated, legally the situation would have been similar to the Boston Marathon bombing, in which three people died from injuries related to the explosion. 

Thankfully, nobody died when the bomb failed to go off, however that allows investigators to assemble a strong case. 

MORE | Read on about Ansberry's history and how the case could relate to a 45-year-old grudge. 

Recht said the case isn't likely to go to trial. Odds are Ansberry's counsel will advise a plea deal if the case is as strong as it appears, Recht said. 

It's not yet known how long Ansberry will spend behind bars if found guilty. Recht said he will likely not be saddled with any financial penalty, but could spend anywhere between 5 or 20 years behind bars.

"It depends on the defendant's background, history and mental state. I can envision a scenario where the defendant is sentenced to the minimum and a scenario where the defendant is sentenced to the maximum," Recht said. 

Ansberry is still in Chicago, however he will eventually be extradited back to Colorado, where prosecutors have decided to file charges. Recht said that process shouldn't take long, especially if he waives his extradition hearing, which is advised by many councilors.

No prosecution can move forward while Ansberry is out of the state, however when he is in Colorado, Recht said the case will likely move forward quickly, likely taking about a year to prosecute. 

To Recht, the case is a demonstration of why law enforcement needs to be afforded the opportunity to stay on top of developing technology.

Recht said, "It's a new and frightening world when modern technology can be used for mass destruction and the potential for many people dying. It's a new world." 

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