Lawrence Ahrens, the man who admitted orchestrating a bombing campaign against a romantic rival in Rotterdam last year, declined to give a statement at his sentencing Thursday morning.
But he had plenty to say before the proceedings — just not verbally. Ahrens came to court wearing a white T-shirt that loudly spoke out against “snitching.”
Ahrens, 34, was in court to receive his agreed-upon 15-year sentence in a bombing spree prosecutors say was aimed at terrorizing his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend and winning her back.
To do that, Ahrens recruited others to detonate explosive devices on the man’s home in Rotterdam. Authorities described the bombs as homemade explosive devices. They did thousands of dollars in damage and could have caused serious injury, had the target or someone else been close to them when they went off.
No one was hurt in any of the incidents.
Ahrens, who was free on $250,000 bond, showed up to his sentencing wearing a shirt that read “STOP snitching” on the front and “snitches get stitches” on the back.
Presiding Judge Michael V. Coccoma ordered him to remove the shirt, saying it was not appropriate for court.
Prosecutor John Healy later said the T-shirt did not do what Ahrens apparently intended.
“People who have done terrible things want to get away with it by scaring off witnesses and potential witnesses, and that kind of intimidation goes nowhere,” Healy said.
“His case was already done,” Healy said, noting the plea deal. “Maybe he was making a statement about the future. Either way, it’s petty and childish, and it doesn’t accomplish anything he thinks it does, other than making him look foolish.”
After the initial order, Coccoma made no further reference to Ahrens’ original attire. He instead focused on the case and its consequences.
“It’s a significant sentence, but it’s justified, given the conduct that you pleaded guilty to,” Coccoma told Ahrens. “Perhaps at some point you’ll realize that living a law-abiding life is the appropriate way to live.”
Healy said there was a mountain of evidence against Ahrens, thanks to the work of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, state police and Rotterdam police, who built a case that resulted in multiple arrests and guilty pleas.
Ahrens looked at the evidence against him and chose to plead guilty and admit his own involvement, Healy said.
Ahrens’ attorney, Cheryl Coleman, said he pleaded guilty after multiple discussions about the case and the evidence.
“It’s a big hit, but it’s not a life-ending hit,” Coleman said Thursday. “Unfortunately for Larry, the evidence was overwhelming.”
As to her client’s choice of clothing, she said she told him to remove the T-shirt when she saw him wearing it.
“I did tell him to take it off,” Coleman said.
Ahrens admitted in August to arson and weapons counts in exchange for a sentence of 15 years in prison.
He had originally faced a host of charges that could have put him in prison for life.
Ahrens admitted then he was guilty of the crimes and directed others to commit them.
On March 17, 2012, a bomb was detonated on the man’s front porch in Rotterdam, smashing his bedroom window as he slept.
A week later, another device was detonated near a dormer on the second floor of the home, causing damage to the roof.
Three others were charged in the case; all have since pleaded guilty.
Michael Chambers, 34, of Draper Avenue, Rotterdam, pleaded guilty in October 2012 to related charges. He faces 10 to 15 years in prison at his sentencing.
Amy Brzoza, 32, of Kellar Avenue, Rotterdam, faces 4.5 to 13.5 years after pleading guilty to related charges in October 2012.
Chambers and Brzoza were arrested leaving the scene of the final bombing.
The other person pleading guilty to related charges was Michael Garry, 32, of Glenville Street, Rotterdam.
Garry pleaded guilty in September 2012 to an arson count for detonating a device on the target’s truck. He faces 15 years in prison.