Convicted Alexandria bomber sentenced to 16 years in federal prison

Daniel Aikens will also have to pay a $20,000 fine and have three years of supervised release
The Alexandria man who was convicted on several federal counts related to setting off a series of explosive devices has been sentenced.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 1:40 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 28, 2023 at 4:31 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Daniel Aikens, the Alexandria man who was convicted on Nov. 18, 2022 on several federal counts related to setting off a series of explosive devices in Alexandria and Monroe between September 2019 and January 2020, has been sentenced to 192 months in federal prison. That equates to 16 years, as federal sentences are handed down by month.

In addition, Aikens will also have to pay a $20,000 fine, $800 for a special assessment fee, and will be placed on supervised release for three years after he is released from prison. Judge Dee Drell of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Alexandria also set several other requirements for Aikens, including that he can’t possess firearms or destructive devices.

Ahead of the sentencing in the federal courthouse on Tuesday, Aikens, who now represents himself, made another effort to get his conviction thrown out. He filed a motion for a reversal of conviction, citing issues he felt occurred during jury instructions.

Judge Drell asked Aikens why his motion should not be considered untimely, given that the government believed the motion was more in line with a motion for a judgement of acquittal, which has certain timeframes for filing.

“It’s not the proper vehicle to address the claims he filed,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamilla Bynog.

Judge Drell agreed and denied the motion.

“The jury instructions did properly and adequately inform the jury of the offenses,” said Judge Drell during his explanation.

Two victims were identified during Aikens’ trial, and each were given the opportunity to submit victim impact statements. The first victim identified was a man who owned Cloyd’s Beauty School in Monroe, who was injured by a pressure cooker bomb Aikens placed in a trashcan on Sept. 12, 2019. That man submitted a written statement to the court. The second victim identified was a woman who was working at PayDay Today loan company on MacArthur Drive in Alexandria when a pipe bomb detonated outside of the business on Jan. 2, 2020. She gave her statement in person.

“I’m very nervous,” said the woman of the impact the crime has had on her life. “I watch my surroundings. I was very paranoid.”

The woman said she has since been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and PTSD.

“I don’t like to go anywhere now. I feel like somebody is out to get me,” she told the court.

Aikens was also permitted to speak about his conviction. To generalize, he maintained his innocence and then referred to himself in the third person while emphasizing he never intended to harm anyone.

“For the entirety of my life, I have been a good citizen,” Aikens said. “I have not stopped being a good citizen. I maintain my innocence.” And later, “It’s clear the defendant never intended to harm anyone.” Aikens emphasized that the devices were placed away from buildings.

He also defended his Google search history, which reflected downloads of guides to make explosive devices, calling them, “One hundred percent benign, even if the download harbors serious intentions.” He pointed to testimony from an acquaintance who said Aikens intended to scare people.

When it came time for the sentencing, Bynog told the court that the government wanted an “upward departure” of the federal sentencing guidelines permitted by law. That calculated to a 309 month minimum and 354 month maximum sentence.

“The government illustrated how intent Mr. Aikens was in carrying out this horrible mission,” she said. She also believed if the sentences were to run concurrent on the counts that it wouldn’t properly address the seriousness of the crime. She said that there was a “significant threat to human life.”

Judge Drell asked Bynog if in retrospect the government undercharged Aikens. Bynog explained that some requirements of some federal statutes weren’t met in looking at other charges. She compared those other charges to ones similar to the Boston Marathon bombing case, in which something like a maiming was listed in the statute. Aikens’ case didn’t reach that threshold.

Aikens, who again now represents himself, also gave his reasoning for what he thought he should be sentenced to. His former federal public defender, Wayne Blanchard, watched on.

“The government is correct that the victims were collateral, but there was no intent to hurt anyone,” Aikens said as he argued why Judge Drell shouldn’t deviate from the federal sentencing guidelines. Aikens wanted 120 months on the low end and 198 months on the high end.

Ultimately, Judge Drell decided to keep the sentencing within federal guidelines - settling on 192 months.

“It’s a little unusual for the government to deviate so dramatically,” he said. “It is my sense, based on the charges in the indictment, going outside the guidelines is not the thing to do.”

Here’s how the 192 month prison sentence broke down:

  • Counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8: 72 months on each count, to run concurrent
    • Counts 1, 3, 5: Making a Destructive Device
    • Counts 2, 4, 6: Possession of a Destructive Device in Violation of the National Firearms Act
    • Count 8: Conveying Malicious False Information
  • Count 7: 120 months (mandatory), to run consecutive with the 72 months
    • Count 7: Use of an Explosive to Commit a Federal Felony

Judge Drell also noted a pending murder case in Grant Parish in which the Grant Parish District Attorney’s Office has indicated it intends to proceed with now that the federal case has concluded.

“Pending charges in Grant Parish, unrelated to charges here, any sentence in this court is not intended to run concurrent with any other sentence anywhere else,” he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys LaDonte Murphy and Daniel McCoy assisted in the prosecution of the federal case.

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