BEDFORD - Bomb-possession charges against a convicted Bedford County rapist are being dropped, District Attorney Bill Higgins said Tuesday, although new federal charges remain possible.
Police had charged 55-year-old Stephen Weaver - who in December was found guilty of raping two teenage female relatives - with 20 unrelated weapons charges, including 10 counts of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.
Originally set for jury selection Tuesday, Weaver's bomb case vanished from the docket the day Higgins said he would leave the charges in a federal prosecutor's hands.
"I'm in contact with [the U.S. Attorney's Office]," he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Valkovci Jr., based in Johnstown, said he could neither confirm nor deny that a federal grand jury is investigating Weaver's case.
Police issued the bomb charges in 2011, days after a lengthy siege in which state police, seeking Weaver on sexual-assault charges, pumped tear gas into his Schellsburg home and shattered his windows with projectiles. His ex-wife found him the next day, armed and hiding in a wall compartment feet from where investigating officers had stood.
Later that week, his ex-wife allegedly found 10 homemade pipe bombs hidden in a bread box and in a work bench at Weaver's garage.
Weaver allegedly told police and a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent that he'd made the bombs years ago to blast fish unconscious at Shawnee Lake. A professional welder, Weaver claimed he fashioned the bombs with easily obtained tools and black powder.
On Tuesday, Higgins said he didn't want to put Weaver's family through another trial after the three-day rape case that ended with his imprisonment for 22 sex crimes. Sentencing in that case is due this summer, Higgins said.
Weaver's attorney, Thomas Crawford of Pittsburgh, said Tuesday that his client hasn't received a subpoena from a federal grand jury. He noted that the criminal complaint against Weaver doesn't indicate whether the alleged bombs were tested for explosive substances.
Crawford, a longtime rival of Higgins, said the district attorney dropped the case to spare himself a losing trial.
"I doubt the federal government's going to take it," Crawford said. "If they wanted it, they would have taken it long ago."
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.