Plotting Revenge Against a Judge


Despite the fact that he actually wrote a check for a "down payment" on the $10,000 hit he commissioned against one of the judges, Dudas claims he never intended to carry out his threats. Experts say that's one of the hardest things for law enforcement to determine: When is someone just a big talker and when are they a real threat?

'Howlers Howl and Hunters Hunt'

Security Expert Frederick Calhoun, who worked for the U.S. Marshals, said there's a clear distinction: "Howlers howl and hunters hunt. There are differences in behavior. Hunters engage in attack-related behaviors. Howlers do not. They simply howl. They communicate#0133 these are people who get angry, start communicating with the judiciary, send threats. They try to disturb or frighten the judicial official, but they never go beyond that."

Calhoun, who has studied violence against judges, said that far more dangerous than the howlers are the "hunters" -- such as Joseph Sands, who plotted against Cicconetti.

"He was a hunter," Calhoun said. "He had a grievance. He feared that the judge and the mayor and the chief of police were going to go after him for municipal tax evasion… he researched the targets' homes. He drove by the judge's house. He surveilled it. He found out where the mayor and the police chief lived. All with the idea of collecting information on how best to attack them."

The revenge plot hatched by Dawn Holin and Joseph Sands was not just a daydream -- it was a meticulous plan caught on tape. But in their blind drive for vengeance this not-so-wily couple made a crucial mistake: They enlisted the help of a friend, who then informed police.

'Street Justice'

For two weeks, police monitored the duo's every move. By day, hidden surveillance cameras caught Sands and the informant on tape as they shopped for bomb components at the hardware store. By night, police listened in as they drove by Cicconetti's home to scout exactly how they would throw the bomb into the house as Cicconetti and his family slept.

In conversations secretly recorded by the informant, Sands dispassionately referred to the judge's children as "casualties of war."

"The kids are gonna die with him," Sands said on tape. "That's called victims of the situation he created. That's called street justice, man…" (Click here to listen to more of the tape).

"The coldness of that is still, to this day…is what stays with me," Cicconetti said. "Had this plan unfolded in the way that they intended it to be unfolded, then you would have had a whole family of deceased people, myself and my wife and my two boys."

'There's a Little Bit of Fear Back There'

Sands and Holin were nabbed moments after they purchased the last element to complete the bomb: the fuse. They were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to 20 and 10 years respectively. They are currently facing related weapons charges in a federal trial.

As for Cicconetti, he admits he has lost some of the small-town innocence he once treasured.

"No question, it took a part of that away from me," he said. "Do I still do the things that I used to do? Yeah. Socially, do I still bowl with the guys that I bowled with for 36 years on Monday night? Yes, I still do…Is there something more back there now? Um, yeah, there's a little bit of fear back there. I may be less than truthful if I didn't admit that to you."

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