Twins get prison for bombing spree
Judge forbids them any contact for 5 years as part of their sentence
WEST CHESTER >> The two men who pleaded guilty to detonating a series of makeshift pipe bombs in rural western Chester County and eastern Lancaster County were forbidden by a Chester County Court judge as part of their sentence Monday from having any contact with one another during the five years of their court supervision.
No phone calls. No letters. No Facebook posts or emails. No Eagles’ games watched on television, or common high school reunion celebrations. No holiday dinners together or Christmas cards exchanged. No contact whatsoever.
Which would not be entirely unusual, except that the men are brothers — fraternal twins who have been a presence in one another’s lives for all of their 23 years.
Common Pleas Court Judge Phyllis Streitel, who accepted the guilty pleas of brothers Caleb Tate and Daniel Tate for the explosions they set off while home on break from college last Christmastime, largely involving the property of members of the Amish community, said she was concerned that when together the pair may have subconsciously egged one another on.
“You seem to have trouble saying, ‘I,’” Streitel told Caleb Tate, the first of the two to stand before her and admit his role in the crimes, noting that he had trouble explaining his actions without referring to “we.”
“You might be more able to become an individual capable of making your own good choices” if he stayed away from his brother, who was seated just a few feet away, waiting to enter his own plea, she told him.
Both men, from Londonderry, entered guilty pleas
to felony charges of arson and misdemeanor retail theft. They were sentenced to six to 23 months in Chester County Prison, followed by five years probation.
Streitel added the strict no contact provisions to the sentence after a lengthy conference with all three attorneys in the case — Assistant District Attorney Bail Joy, the prosecutor, and defense attorneys Vince DiFabio of Paoli, representing Daniel Tate, and Robert Donatoni of West Chester, representing Caleb Tate.
In her comments to Caleb Tate, Streitel acknowledged
that the arrangements might be difficult for the family. She said the brothers would not be allowed to continue residing at their parents’ home, and that it might be difficult to choose who could live there and who could not. “You can be at your home anymore if your brother is not,” she said.
Joy said his office had extended the offer of a county prison sentence to the brothers, when they could have faced state prison time, because of the “good grace” of their victims. He said the victims, many of them Amish, said they realized the men were not “hardened criminals” but that they had caused some fear and hardship in the community.
Streitel ordered the men to write individual letters
of apology to each of their victims, and to perform 200 hours of community service. “That will show you that if you stay busy enough, you will feel more part of the community. You will learn how to be thankful instead of thankless.”
Both brothers expressed contrition for their actions, and said they had shamed their families and themselves.
“I am deeply saddened by what I did to the victims,” said Caleb Tate. “But I am humbled by what they said about me.”
The twins set off improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on five occasions between Dec. 15 and Dec. 31 having picked up the idea from watching similar stunts
on YouTube. The targets of the bombing included a mailbox, an Amish phone shed, a small Amish produce shed, and a well pump shed. Although no people were in any of the buildings when the explosions took place, the detonations could have injured or killed anybody who was present, authorities said at the time.
According to an arrest affidavit that was filed by state Trooper Jerry Harper, who serves as the state police fire marshal for the county, both brothers admitted to their involvement in building and detonating the pipe bombs. They were interviewed in February at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif, where Daniel Tate was a student, and in Los Angeles, where Caleb Tate,
a student at Belmont College in Nashville, was staying at the time.
Both men, who are 2012 graduates of Octorara High School, were charged in May.
Streitel, as she listened to Joy recite what the pair had done, and then reading the criminal complaint, was clearly disturbed by the crimes.
“I am shocked by what I heard,” the judge said. “I find it highly offensive. You sound like terrorists. There is a very sick intent behind these actions.”
Afterward, the men were both led from the courtroom by sheriff deputies to begin serving their sentences.
Caleb, left, and Daniel Tate, 22, were sentenced in Chester County in connection with a string of explosive devices.