Former S.F. Political Consultant Pleads Guilty to Poison, Weapons Charges

Ryan K. Chamberlain II, who agreed to plead guilty to charges of unregistered possession of a biological toxin and possession of an illegally altered firearm. (FBI)

Ryan Chamberlain, the former San Francisco political consultant who in 2014 was the subject of a brief manhunt after federal agents said they had discovered bomb-making materials in his North Beach apartment, has pleaded guilty to charges he illegally possessed a biological toxin.

In a 10-page plea agreement disclosed Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco, Chamberlain admitted visiting a clandestine website to purchase abrin.

Abrin is a deadly toxin derived from the fruit of a flowering plant called the rosary pea, native to South and Southeast Asia and parts of Africa. The U.S. government requires those who possess such biological agents, which include poisons like ricin and a long list of pathogens, to register.

Chamberlain also pleaded guilty to possession of a .22-caliber Derringer pistol from which the serial number had been removed.

The two charges could bring a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine and a lifetime of supervised release. But the agreement calls for a sentence of 30 months in prison, three years of post-release supervision and an unspecified fine. Chamberlain has remained in custody since his arrest in June 2014, so it’s unclear how much longer he would remain imprisoned.

The case came to light in late May 2014 after the FBI interviewed Chamberlain about transactions he made on clandestine websites. Chamberlain evaded arrest following the interview, prompting a search of his apartment. A government complaint said agents had recovered what they believed were components for an explosive device.

The FBI launched what was described as a nationwide search for Chamberlain, who was arrested near San Francisco’s Crissy Field a little more than 48 hours after he disappeared.

U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria is scheduled to sentence Chamberlain on April 12.

The full plea agreement released Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney for Northern California is below:

Former S.F. Political Consultant Pleads Guilty to Poison, Weapons Charges 17 February,2016Dan Brekke


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area’s transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED’s comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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