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Man With Bomb In Courtroom Demanded To See Bush; Captured With No Injuries

April 14, 1989

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) _ A man going before a judge on firearms charges Thursday threatened to blow up the courtroom and demanded to talk to President Bush before guards wrestled him to the floor and seized a briefcase he was carrying.

Although police and prosecutors initially thought the briefcase contained a bomb, Union County police officer Ellen Merino said Thursday night the object was being classified as suspicious.

″They’re not classifying it as a bomb,″ said county police Sgt. Anthony Reilly.

The incident happened in the third-floor courtroom of Superior Court Judge Leonard Sachar at about 1:30 p.m. Bush gave a speech earlier Thursday in Union, which is about seven miles from the courthouse, and left Newark International Airport at 2:32 p.m.

″He freaked out and said ‘I have a bomb here,’ or something to that effect, and everybody started scrambling,″ said Ed Tucker, first assistant prosecutor for Elizabeth. ″I’m told that he wanted to talk to the president. Officers were able to secure the attache case and secure him.

″The judge was in the process of hearing whether his case was to go to the grand jury,″ Tucker said.

Tucker identified the man as James Cecil, 36, of Avenel. Cecil also claimed he planted other bombs in the building, which houses the county administration and Superior Court, Tucker said.

The county bomb squad was called in to remove the briefcase from the building, which was evacuated immediately following the threat.

Bomb-sniffing dogs searched the building for explosives, said Tucker, who earlier had characterized the man’s briefcase as ″definitely a live bomb, a black-powder bomb.″

Ms. Merino said the device was taken to an undisclosed firing range and disposed. She did not know exactly what the briefcase contained.

Cecil was held in the Union County Jail, Tucker said, adding that no additional charges were immediately filed.

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