Residents of a pricey condominium complex in Pikesville can sleep easy.
Frederick Lee Mackler, who was arrested last year after repeatedly creating loud, nighttime bangs and flashes from his fourth-floor window, will not be allowed to return to his home there, a judge ruled yesterday.
A retired businessman, Mackler - who told police he was "mad at his neighbors" - was ordered to serve a year in the Baltimore County Detention Center, with two years of probation upon release.
Mackler, 59, the former president of Consumer Lighting Products Inc. in Baltimore, has been in custody for almost nine months. He was given credit for time served, which means he could be released within the next few weeks, one of his lawyers said.
During his probation, Mackler must remain at least a mile away from the Stevenson Commons Condominiums, where he owns one of the complex's 72 luxurious apartments, some of them listed at $600,000, with marble foyers and gourmet kitchens.
Mackler put his condominium on the market about a month ago, said Robert B. Schulman, one of his two lawyers. "We agreed to that, to his staying away from the condo," Schulman said.
The sentence by Baltimore County Circuit Judge John G. Turnbull II was more severe than it appears. Mackler was given a five-year sentence for possession of explosives, and a concurrent 10-year term for importing cocaine into Maryland, with all but one year suspended. If he violates probation, the longer jail terms could be brought to bear.
Prosecutor Kristin Blumer had asked the judge to order Mackler incarcerated for 18 months. Asked for his reaction to yesterday's sentence, State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger said, "It is what it is."
For two years, residents of the gated condo complex off Old Court Road had been infuriated by the thundering booms and flashes that lit up the sky. Investigators set up surveillance cameras and clambered onto roofs to search for burn marks, and found none. They looked at air-conditioning units, trash compactors, lampposts, gas pipelines and generators for signs of combustion, but nothing seemed amiss. They consulted experts in meteorology and physics and shot pictures from a helicopter. They sent images of flashes to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory - all to no avail.
Ultimately, the surveillance cameras caught a flash from an upstairs window, followed by "a loud bang," a charging document said. From the site of the flash and the shadow it threw on the asphalt, investigators pinpointed its origin as being about 30 feet above the ground and, specifically, from Unit 406 - Mackler's apartment.
When police arrested him on April 29, 2008, they found in his apartment 200 pyrotechnic devices, 12 handguns, an Uzi submachine gun, a .223-caliber rifle, two shotguns, 6 ounces of cocaine, an ounce of marijuana, a digital scale and a pharmaceutical pestle. The sentencing judge ordered that the weapons not be returned to Mackler.
In court documents, Mackler was quoted as telling police that he was "the bad boy of the condominiums" and that he was angry with his neighbors, although it was not clear why. Mackler said he would wake up at night, fire shots out of his fourth-floor window and go back to bed.
His other lawyer, Richard C.B. Woods, said last year that the noise and flashes came from a "bird-banger," a device used by farmers to keep birds and animals from crops.