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Accused bomber says devices not destructive

CHICAGO - A former Iowa letter carrier accused of sending dud pipe bombs and taunting letters signed “The Bishop’’ called himself to the witness stand and gave his own closing arguments Thursday, admitting he sent the devices but insisting they never would have gone off.

John Tomkins, who has represented himself throughout the trial, began the sometimes bizarre spectacle of questioning of himself Thursday by announcing that he was calling “defendant John Tomkins’’ to testify. He then walked to the witness stand and a legal adviser read aloud questions that Tomkins himself written.

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Tomkins, 47, repeated what he said earlier this week: that he sent the threatening letters to investment advisers in a scheme to boost the value of his stocks. But he quickly added he intentionally constructed fake bombs that would not explode.

Tomkins is accused of sending letters threatening to kill recipients, their families, or neighbors unless they took steps to raise the price of 3COM Corp. and Navarre Corp. stocks, in which he invested. The letters, sent from 2005 to 2007, were signed, “The Bishop.’’

Packages included notes reading, “Bang! You’re dead,’’ and a message that declared the receiver was still alive only because one wire was intentionally not attached.

Prosecutors say the bombs would have exploded had all the wires been attached. The letters included a demand to act by a deadline or bombs that explode would follow. They ended with the words “Tick, tock’’ or “Time’s up.’’

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