At 19, skinny, bespectacled and shaggy-haired, John E. Robison, Jr. doesn’t look the part, but for a little while he had local and state police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI worried about what he kept in his basement.
The South Hadley/Amherst area teen was found innocent of three counts of malicious explosion and one count of possessing explosives with the intent to harm people or property by a Hampshire Superior Court jury on Wednesday, May 27. The charges stemmed from videos Robison, who goes by Jack, posted on YouTube chronicling his experimentation with home-made, high-power explosives between Sept. 12 and Oct. 20, 2007.
He faced up to 60 years in prison.
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The prosecution maintained that explosions of the size that Jack was producing would inevitably damage property, but the defense countered that there was no evidence of destruction of property, other than video of explosives disturbing “unimproved land.”
“The defendant should not be penalized for causing a degree of harm to unimproved land not clearly within the statute’s reach,” wrote Jack’s attorney, David P. Hoose, according to court documents.
He later wrote: “What the Commonwealth desires is a conclusion from the jury that the substances Mr. Robison possessed were dangerous and therefore his intent in possessing them must have been unlawful,” according to the documents.
The jury didn’t reach that conclusion; they found Jack Robison innocent on all counts.