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Attorney: Cofflin's 'war' on police was more than just bluster
York attorney Seamus Dubbs took the unusual step of testifying against his former client Tuesday, the second day of the trial for Howard "Tim" Cofflin Jr., accused of preparing to kill his girlfriend and go to war with responding state police troopers.
Cofflin called his scheme Plan B, according to chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker.
Dubbs previously represented Cofflin, 57, formerly of Loganville, who was charged with making terroristic threats and harassment after an Aug. 14, 2015, domestic argument at his former Highland Road home.
The attorney testified that he was speaking with Cofflin in early October 2015, and "he had informed me he was in the planning and operational stages ... of an attack on his ex and state police."
Dubbs said he was concerned about what Cofflin told him and consulted with the Pennsylvania Bar Association's ethics hotline about whether it was proper for him to breach attorney-client confidentiality by going to police.
Tried to dissuade Cofflin: Dubbs did not go to authorities at that time, he said, but did his best to reason with Cofflin.
"I tried to talk him out of it, to dissuade him," Dubbs told jurors.
Then on Oct. 21, 2015, Cofflin told Dubbs he'd acquired body armor and still needed to do a some work to finish building an AR-15 assault rifle, "and as soon as he was done with that, he was going to act," Dubbs testified.
Dubbs again consulted with the ethics hotline, after which he called police to alert them to Cofflin's scheme, he said.
"In my opinion, I had to (do it)," the attorney testified. "It was more than just bluster. It was more than just anger. ... I didn't believe I was having any effect on dissuading him."
The background: Cofflin's mission, according to Barker, was to kill Tina Marie Snyder — his girlfriend of 22 years and the mother of an adult daughter — then "kill as many PSP troopers as he could."
He was enraged that Snyder had obtained a protection-from-abuse order that forced him to move from their home, police have said, adding that Cofflin blamed Snyder, state police and judges.
Cofflin told troopers he had started to assemble an AR-15 rifle, since the PFA prohibited him from buying weapons, and planned to assemble what he called improvised explosive devices, Barker said.
Cofflin bought the parts to assemble an AR-15 and also bought 200 rounds of ammunition for it, as well as laser sights, six 30-round magazines for the weapon and two pieces of body armor, according to the prosecutor. He also planned to use large propane tanks and the explosive Tannerite to make shrapnel bombs, Barker said.
'My mission': Also during trial Tuesday, jurors heard Cofflin's taped interview with police, created after he'd been arrested.
"I'm going to go and kill (Snyder) ... and take back possession of my property," Cofflin says on the tape, adding that he had a helmet with night-vision capabilities. "If I get out of here, that's still my mission."
Cofflin freely admitted conducting surveillance on the state police barracks in Loganville.
"I've already staked out their headquarters. I already know where they fuel their cars," he says on the tape. "I'm going to war with them."
Jurors also were shown the items Cofflin had bought to allegedly wage that war, including gun parts, ammunition and bulletproof vests.
Mechanical engineer: Cofflin is a mechanical engineer by training, according to testimony.
He remains in York County Prison without bail, charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder of a law-enforcement officer, two counts of terrorism, three counts of aggravated assault and one count each of making terroristic threats and threatening to use a bomb.
He also is charged with making terroristic threats and harassment for the initial encounter with Snyder that led to the PFA being granted.
Public defender Jim Rader maintains that Cofflin was stripped of his dignity because he had to move into his mother's home in Dundalk, Maryland, and that the whole plan was merely "this dark fantasy."
"In his own way (it was) a cry for help," Rader said.
Cofflin's trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.