By Emily Gurnon
Twenty-one-year-old Levi Glennie pleaded guilty to damaging two Qwest
utility boxes in St. Paul, but an investigation before his Wednesday
sentencing revealed something potentially much broader and more
sinister, officials said.
His apartment, garage and storage unit were "brimming" with things like
lock-picking tools, utility company uniforms and padlocks from various
businesses, a prosecutor said.
He told police at the time of his arrest that he had valuable
information about the vulnerabilities of the "system" that could be made
public - and tried to bargain for a reduction of charges.
A special investigative unit logged 27 incidents between July and
November in which locks had been removed or switches thrown, causing
power failures across the Twin Cities, usually at night.
A major hospital was hit. And a major children's hospital. Businesses.
Homes where the electrical failure of someone's medical device could
have killed them.
"Mr. Glennie is very fortunate that we're not here under a manslaughter
charge or something like that," said Ramsey County prosecutor Dan
Those incidents were not tied specifically to Glennie and his two
co-defendants, who were charged only in connection with two events on
Nov. 14 in the West Seventh Street area of St. Paul.
Yet, the three men may face federal charges, Glennie's attorney, Robert
David Anderson, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for
Minnesota, said he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an
Ian-David McCombs, 22, of White Bear Lake, and Christopher Dee Walter,
26, of Andover, pleaded guilty and were sentenced previously. Both had
criminal records, including burglary.
But Glennie, a highly intelligent University of Minnesota student and
the youngest of the group, had a clean record, a good upbringing and a
promising future, Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan said.
"You chose to turn that to evil," she told Glennie. "What you did was
malevolent, malicious and with malice aforethought."
She also called him the "mastermind" of the operation.
Glennie apologized in court to his parents, his girlfriend, the
University of Minnesota, Qwest and "the St. Paul community for being yet
another crime statistic."
His attorney said Glennie's criminal activity began when he befriended
the other men.
"This was not his M.O. before the three met up," Owens said. "It was
The pre-sentence investigation report revealed that Glennie had several
alarms set in his Minneapolis apartment, which police tripped while
executing a search warrant. He had also wired his bedroom at his
parents' Hastings home with a surveillance camera. Seized from Glennie
were key-making equipment, computers, utility uniforms, badges,
lock-picking tools, keys for U locks, an Xcel Energy credit card,
radios, a U hospital pager, Northern States Power padlocks, Xcel Energy
hard hats, padlocks from various businesses and much more.
Also contained in the report:
* A special investigative team made up of police, the FBI and Xcel
Energy staff was created to look into a series of thefts, vandalisms
and disruptions of power grids across the Twin Cities. It eventually
involved as many as 10 jurisdictions.
* Unknown individuals had been cutting or disabling the locks to the
"overhead throw" switches, which are used by emergency crews to cut
power to areas. There were 27 incidents where these locks were
tampered with and the switches thrown, killing power for hundreds or
thousands of homes and businesses.
* Glennie said he met McCombs through online "urban exploring" Web
sites. Urban exploring involves going into underground or off-limits
areas. He met Walter through McCombs.
* Their criminal activity "accelerated a great deal" from early 2007 and
"became almost like an addiction," Glennie said. All three worked to
defeat locks belonging to Xcel Energy, Qwest and Comcast, cutting
service to customers.
* Glennie told a probation official that he had "always had an obsession
to having access to things."
* Walter, one of the co-defendants, told police after his arrest that
the threesome would collect the locks like trophies, he said.
* On the night of the November incident, they had wanted to "mess with"
another urban explorer who had said something bad about McCombs
online. So they attempted to disrupt the phone service where the man
Otherwise, the targets were random.
"This is really just a senseless, senseless act," Vlieger said.
For his plea of guilty to damaging utility property, Glennie was
sentenced to 90 days in jail. He will have to serve another year if he
does not abide by the terms of his probation.
His parents, Brian and Leslie Glennie, declined to speak outside the
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