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Tell Me You Didn’t Bring A Grenade Into The Courthouse


Aram Berberian had been a Rhode Island lawyer for 31 years when he sent this letter to a member of the Kent County, Rhode Island Courthouse police:

Frank A. Carter, Jr., Esquire
Providence County Supreme Court
250 Benefit Street
Providence, R.I. 02903
Dear Brother Carter:

On 15 October 1980 I intend to present to the Security Officers at the Kent County Courthouse a hand grenade which I will have smuggled into the courthouse. Since you have evidenced an interest in the subject matter, would you care to be present when I make the presentation? If so, I would be pleased to telephone to you the proper time.

I have already informed Officer Keagan of my intention so that he would have ready appropriate medication for his heart.
Yours truly,
Aram K. Berberian

Brilliant! Berberian also sent the letter to several others, including the clerk of the Superior Court, posted it on the Courthouse bulletin board, and hand-delivered it to a courthouse police officer, who gave it to his superior, Officer Dodd (who Berberian had sued over … metal detectors in state courthouses!).

Come October 15th, while speaking with a court security officer in the cafeteria, Berberian said

Gee, today is the 15th, I forgot I was supposed to bring a hand grenade into the building today. Give me a few minutes, I will go and get it. I have some business in Judge DeCiantis’ courtroom.

Berberian then went back to the courtroom where he was trying a domestic matter. Soon thereafter, the Chief of the Courthouse Police (Captain Dodd) entered the courtroom. Per the court:

When defendant noticed that Dodd had entered the room, he interrupted the examination of a witness, turned to Justice DeCiantis, and said, “Your Honor, one moment. I have something I want to give Captain Dodd.” The defendant approached Dodd and removed from his clothing a metal [**5] object that appeared to be a hand grenade. As he did so, defendant said: “Be careful with it. Don’t pull the [*930] pin. It might explode.”

It didn’t. Remotely, the pin was pulled by the Fire Marshal, and nothing happened. The grenade “was filled with an inert metallic substance incapable of exploding.” What was Attorney Berberian’s fate?

He was convicted on two counts of threatening to place an explosive device in a public building, and sentenced to five years! (of probation, that is). Even so, Berberian appealed on a variety of grounds, all of which are pretty stupid and really boring. Not surprisingly, the Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed the convictions. The case is State v. Berberian, 459 A.2nd 928 (1983).

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