Jury deliberating fate of man accused of planning war on police
Attorneys in the trial of Howard "Tim" Cofflin Jr. had decidedly different takes on the man's actions, what they meant and whether he actually intended to murder his estranged girlfriend and as many state troopers as possible.
During closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, public defender Jim Rader said Cofflin, 57, didn't really intend to carry out what he called his Plan B.
"He was telling somebody, 'Please stop me,'" Rader told jurors. "He was teetering like a see-saw, back and forth."
He called Cofflin's talk about Plan B "the rantings of a delusional person" and said his client never fully formed an intent to kill.
But chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker, in a detailed 53-minute closing argument, said Cofflin's clear intent was to murder Tina Snyder — his girlfriend of 22 years and the mother of an adult daughter — then kill as many troopers as he could, to send a message to judges and the court system.
Enraged by PFA: Barker argued Cofflin was enraged that Snyder had obtained a protection-from-abuse order against him in August 2015 that forced him out of their Loganville home and into his mother's home in Dundalk, Maryland.
The PFA was the result of a domestic incident in which state police responded to his former Highland Road home, a move Cofflin saw as amounting to a war against him, according to the prosecutor.
Barker reminded jurors that Cofflin meticulously researched Plan B and showed them the numerous items Cofflin had already bought to carry out what he called his "ultimate crime," including parts to assemble his own AR-15 assault rifle, since the PFA prohibited him from buying weapons.
Cofflin also bought six 30-round magazines for the rifle he was 80 percent finished building, as well as two bulletproof vests and 200 "cop killer" bullets, the prosecutor said. He also planned to use large propane tanks and the binary explosive Tannerite to make shrapnel bombs, which Cofflin referred to as improvised explosive devices, Barker said.
"He blames the government and is going to send a message," Barker said. "There's no cry for help. ... This was a fully ongoing operational plan."
No verdict yet: Jurors deliberated about two hours Wednesday. They asked to go home, and presiding Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness dismissed them shortly after 5 p.m., according to District Attorney Tom Kearney.
Had Cofflin's former defense attorney, Seamus Dubbs, not alerted authorities to Plan B, Snyder and troopers would most likely be dead, Barker said.
Dubbs testified Tuesday that in early October 2015 Cofflin "informed me he was in the planning and operational stages ... of an attack on his ex and state police."
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.
At that point, Dubbs alerted police 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 mission: Also 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."
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.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.