Former political operative indicted for bombing

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A former Missouri political operative is facing federal indictment for a parking garage bombing nearly three years ago that injured an attorney, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Milton “Skip” Ohlsen III, 39, is charged with five weapons-related counts for the Oct. 15, 2008, bombing in Clayton, Mo. He could face up to life in prison if convicted.

Ohlsen’s attorney did not return messages seeking comment.

The bombing was so strong it shook buildings not far from St. Louis County’s government offices, causing an evacuation of neighboring buildings, including the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Puzzled authorities released a grainy surveillance photo of a hooded man. Attorney John Gillis suffered serious injuries but survived.

U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan declined comment on evidence in the case, but told KMOX Radio that Gillis was not the intended target. He said authorities believe the real target was another attorney, Richard Eisen who drove an Acura similar to one driven by Gillis and parked it in the same garage. KMOX said Eisen represented Ohlsen’s ex-wife in their divorce case, and obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent Ohlsen from being near another man’s estranged wife and child.

Ohlsen was a key figure in an election conspiracy case that resulted in a prison sentence for former Democratic state Sen. Jeff Smith.

Smith pleaded guilty in August 2009 to two federal counts of obstruction of justice tied to his failed 2004 congressional campaign, ending what was once thought to be a promising political career. Federal authorities called it “a classic corruption case” in which one lie built on another as Smith sought to hide his role in coordinating the distribution of negative campaign materials by a supposedly independent group against his leading primary opponent, Russ Carnahan.

Authorities said Ohlsen approached Smith’s campaign in July 2004 and offered to produce and distribute negative ads aimed at Carnahan. Smith approved the plan, and aides provided Ohlsen negative information about Carnahan to use in the ads, according to court documents.

Carnahan’s campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging improper coordination between Smith’s campaign and the supposedly independent group that distributed the postcards and fliers. Smith submitted a false affidavit to the FEC denying involvement.

Ohlsen was not charged in that case but served time in federal prison on gun possession and mortgage fraud convictions. Upon his release in February he was transferred to state prison for assault, theft and weapons convictions.

Ohlsen faces formal arraignment and a detention hearing on Monday. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office did not know where he is jailed or the amount of bond.

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