By JULIET WILLIAMS
Associated Press Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) - A federal appeals court threw out the arson
conviction of a man who calls himself "Dr. Chaos," saying Tuesday
that a federal judge should have let him withdraw his guilty plea
before he was sentenced to 21 years in prison for vandalizing
utility equipment.
The ruling doesn't mean Joseph Konopka will be free anytime
soon: He is currently serving a 13-year prison term in Illinois for
hiding bottles of cyanide in tunnels of Chicago's subway system.
Konopka pleaded guilty in 2002 to six federal crimes including
arson, software piracy, destruction and vandalism in a crime spree
that damaged power substations, radio transmitters and utility
facilities and caused dozens of power outages in northeastern
Wisconsin.
But Konopka, 28, tried to back out of the plea before his
sentencing a year ago, arguing a federal statute that would add 10
years to his sentence for using fire while committing the crimes
shouldn't apply when the crime is arson.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman of Milwaukee refused him, but a
three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago
agreed it didn't make sense to add extra time for a crime committed
while using fire or explosives in Konopka's conviction for setting
a sauerkraut factory ablaze. The appeals court decision does not
affect his other convictions.
In a five-page court opinion, Judge Richard Posner described
Konopka, a former computer systems administrator, as a
"self-styled supervillain." He said Konopka, "together with
accomplices (some recruited from the Web site 'Teens for Satan'),
committed a series of criminal acts apparently just for the hell of
it."
Court records say Konopka formed an "anarchist group of boys"
called Realm of Chaos to do vandalism, computer hacking and other
forms of destruction for "entertainment purposes."
Francie Wendelborn, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office
in Milwaukee, said prosecutors will try to work out a compromise
sentence with Konopka and his attorneys.
Konopka's attorney, Bridget Boyle, said she would study her
client's options. "We're going to have discussions with the U.S.
attorney's office and see what happens," she said.
Prosecutors said Konopka, formerly of Hobart, was responsible
for 28 power outages affecting 30,000 customers and 20 other
service interruptions in 1999. Damage was estimated at $800,000.
He also was ordered to pay more than $435,000 in restitution to
various victims.
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On the Net:
7th Circuit Court of Appeals: http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov


(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)