EUGENE, Ore. -- A founder of the radical Weather Underground captured after 17 years of hiding, was held without bail Wednesday following his arrest by an FBI agent who had been on the fugitive's trail 14 years.
Silas Trim Bissell, 44, an award-winning poet and heir to the Bissell carpet-cleaning fortune faces charges of attempting in 1970 to blow up an Air Force ROTC building in Seattle.
The tall, balding suspect surrendered quietly when 10 law enforcement officers swarmed into his home Tuesday night.
U.S. Magistrate Michael Hogan rejected public defender Mary Ann Bachers' motion for bail after Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Coffin pointed out that Bissell had jumped bail 17 years ago and was a flight risk.
'Yes, I will remain silent,' Bissell told Hogan when the magistrate asked him if he understood his right against self-incrimination.
Bissell, charged with conspiracy to destroy government property and possession of a destructive device, faces a second hearing Friday. If convicted he could receive a prison term of up to 10 years and a $10,000 fine.
FBI agent Norman Mollerup, who began tracking the suspect 14 years ago in Puerto Rico and who coincidentally was transferred to Eugene two years ago, led the arresting officers.
'He was very peaceful and courteous. It all went without incident and he admitted who he was right away,' Mollerup said.
'I would say he probably thought it was a relief to him,' the agent added. 'I can't probe into his mind. I think he would have preferred he not be arrested, but I think he now realizes that he can put this behind him and get on with his life.
Bissell lived in the Eugene area 'for a number of years' under the alias Terrence Peter Jackson and worked as a physical therapist and free-lance artist, said Theodore M. Gardner, Portland FBI special agent in charge.
Mollerup was in Puerto Rico when he first went looking for Bissell in 1973.
'Fourteen years ago, this guy was a big deal then. It was during the anti-war movement,' Mollerup said. The agent said Bissell's parents had a winter home in Boqueron, 'a real small town in southwestern Puerto Rico.'
'That was one area where we thought we might be able to find these people because it's so remote,' Mollerup said. 'I worked on that a considerable amount of time.
'I was looking forward to talking to him.'
Bissell and his wife, Judith Emily Bissell, now 42, were arrested Jan. 18, 1970, by University of Washington police after a homemade bomb was placed under the steps of the campus Air Force ROTC building. The bomb, consisting of an an electric blasting cap, alarm clock, battery and a plastic bag filled with gas and explosives, failed to detonate.
On Feb. 10, 1970, the Bissells posted cash bond of $25,000 each and dropped from sight, failing to appear in federal court as scheduled in April.
The Bissels were active in the Weather Underground group of the Students for a Democratic Society and allegedly took part in other attacks against the ROTC in Seattle between 1968 and 1970, the FBI said.
Judith Bissell was arrested with four other fugitives in November 1977 in Houston and charged in a plot to bomb the office of a California state senator. She was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to several counts involving explosives in that case.
In January 1980, she was sentenced to three years in prison in Seattle in the ROTC case. She was released in October 1981 from the Federal Correctional Institution in Pleasanton, Calif., and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Audrey Kaslow, a U.S. parole commissioner based in Burlingame, Calif., said in 1981 that the Bissells had been separated for many years and had no contact with each other for at least seven years.
Gardner said Bissell, who holds a master's degree in literature from Syracuse University, won first place in the 1964 New England Poetry Awards competition. He taught at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., and Wayne State University in Detroit.