A man accused of setting off a pipe bomb at the main Salt Lake City Library tried to convince a federal judge on Wednesday that charges should be dropped against him because the library does not impact interstate commerce.
During a motion hearing, attorneys for Thomas James Zajac argued that the government's charges relating to possessing and detonating an explosive device must show that the target building has something to do with interstate commerce.
Attorney Deirdre Gorman argued that the city library's core mission is to provide services to the residents of Salt Lake City and that its business does not extend outside the state. Because of that, the government should not be able to prosecute Zajac with interfering with interstate commerce.
Federal prosecutors called Salt Lake City Public Library's assistant director, Britton Lund, to the witness stand to testify that although the library is set up using city taxpayer funds, its services extend beyond state borders.
Lund pointed out that the library hosts academic speakers from all over the country in its 300-seat auditorium and numerous conference rooms. The library also hosts wedding receptions, dances and other events in which interstate commerce plays a part. She estimated that $1.9 million, about one-sixth of the library's total budget, is spent on printed materials from all over the world. The library also buys CDs, DVDs and other digital media from out of state, which are delivered on a regular basis via USPS, UPS or Federal Express.
The library is also landlord to several shops, including a flower shop, deli and comic book store, which also do interstate business transactions, such as credit card purchases and ordering materials.
While the library is free for Salt Lake City and county residents to use, it is also open to people from other Utah cities as well as out of state via an $80 annual membership.
On cross examination, Lund was asked if the library's core mission was still to provide services to Salt Lake City residents specifically. "That's too exclusive; everybody is welcome," Lund said.
Zajac is charged with possessing an explosive device in an attempt to damage or destroy a building, violent crimes, making threats to use explosives, among other charges. He is accused of detonating a pipe bomb inside the main library on Sept. 15, 2006, forcing the evacuation of the building and causing damage.
On the day of the explosion, Lund said the library was closed for the remainder of the day and that included businesses located inside.
If convicted, Zajac faces significant federal prison time.U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball said he would issue his ruling in writing in the coming weeks. Kimball said he will also rule on a second motion to dismiss charges in which Zajac's attorneys claim federal agents accessed and listened to phone conversations between Zajac and his former defense attorneys from the Weber County Jail. The government has denied listening to those recordings.
E-mail: [email protected]