Plea Deal on Eve of Pipeline Bombing Trial

Tuesday, Jul 1, 2014  |  Updated 5:56 AM CDT
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Jury selection began Monday for a man accused of trying to blow up a natural gas line in Plano. Anson Chi is representing himself after he fired his legal team and withdrew his guilty plea.

Catherine Ross, NBC 5 Collin County Reporter

Jury selection began Monday for a man accused of trying to blow up a natural gas line in Plano. Anson Chi is representing himself after he fired his legal team and withdrew his guilty plea.

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Trial Begins for Man Accused of Blowing Up Plano Pipeline

The trial for a Texas man accused of trying to blow up a natural gas pipeline, Anson Chi, started Monday morning at the U.S. Courthouse in Plano.
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A Texas man accused of trying to blow up a natural gas pipeline two years ago pleaded guilty late Monday to charges related to the 2012 blast.

The Dallas Morning News reported Anson Chi pleaded guilty to two of four counts he was facing. The plea came hours after a jury was selected. Opening arguments were set to begin Tuesday in a Plano federal court

Chi, 35, had originally pleaded guilty to trying to destroy an Atmos Energy natural gas pipeline in Plano but later withdrew his plea, saying police had forced him to confess.

Chi is charged with possessing an unregistered explosive device, maliciously using an explosive device, using a destructive device during a crime of violence and making false declarations in court.

Judge Richard Schell read those charges to Chi in court Monday morning.

A total of 55 jurors were summoned and on Monday, after more than eight hours, a 12-person jury with two alternates was selected .

Chi chose to represent himself. He does have an attorney with him at the table to help answer legal questions as the trial continues.

Chi was allowed by Schell to question jurors about their relationships with police and law enforcement, including if they had served in law enforcement or if they'd been a "victim of police brutality."

Chi submitted 38 handwritten questions to the judge for voir dire, while some involved the high-profile nature of the case and news coverage, others made less sense.

Schell did not allow Chi to ask jurors if they often went camping, followed a vegan or vegetarian diet or had heard of "totalitarian agriculture."

Among the other questions Schell did not allow:
"With gorilla gone, will there be hope for man?"
"Are you familiar with the concept of Takers and Leavers?"
"Does the world belong to man or does man belong to the world?"

Chi, who was burned in the pipeline blast, was ruled competent for trial and has chosen to represent himself. He did have an attorney with him at the table to help answer legal questions as the trial continued.

Chi corresponded with imprisoned Unabomber Ted Kaczynski before the 2012 blast, according to court documents cited by the Dallas Morning News, though Kaczynski eventually told Anson Chi to see a psychiatrist and stop contacting him.

Chi was trying to have the letters he exchanged with Kaczynski, who is serving life in prison over a deadly bombing spree between 1978 and 1995, barred from his trial.

Schell was not immediately allowing those letters to presented to the jury.

A sentence will be imposed by Schell, no date has been set according to The Dallas Morning News.

NBC 5's Ellen Bryan and Catherine Ross contributed to this report.

CLICK HERE to read more on this from our media partners at The Dallas Morning News.
 

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