Jyllian Kemsley covered* Dr. Snyder's preliminary hearing** on Friday; the writeup is at The Safety Zone. As usual when Jyllian is involved, it is detailed, well written and very interesting. I'll try to summarize the highlights of the prosecution's case:
- Graduate students noted that Dr. Snyder was interested in explosives (specifically, making triacetone triperoxide), setting off fireworks in his hood and collecting used chemicals.
- After Snyder's injury, he was heard asking his friend to dispose of some of the chemicals in his apartment.
- His apartment had a raft of evidence showing that he was doing explosives-oriented experimentation at home.
I think some of his behavior in graduate school was certainly unusual, but does not really amount to a crime. However***, but it is clear to me that his request for someone else to remove evidence from the scene (and to do so in an illegal manner, with respect to hazardous waste disposal) is indeed a crime and enough to get some sort of a guilty plea from him.
(I assume, also, that he has experimented his way out of a chemistry lab. No industrial or academic employer would decide to take such an employee on.)
What bothers me most about this case is the potential threat it poses to the home experimental scientist. Law-abiding citizens who want to do a little science (and God forbid, some chemistry) at home have some difficult barriers to cross. David Snyder hasn't made it any easier on them.
UPDATE: Jyllian Kemsley mentions Beth Halford's very relevant article on home chemists and the legal troubles they can face; I admit it was this article that I was not remembering, yet thinking about when I wrote my last paragraph. Thanks, Jyllian!
* Covering the court proceedings of chemists must be the rarest of #altchemjobs.
** A preliminary hearing is used to determine if the prosecution has enough evidence to proceed.
*** I am not a lawyer.