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Seminary student sentenced to prison

In the end, Roman Cristian Regman remained a mystery to those who spent months trying to figure him out.

The 22-year-old Romanian immigrant was sentenced in Tampa federal court Thursday to 57 months in prison and three years supervised release for taking two carry-on bags packed with hand-grenades and guns to Tampa International Airport in September, where he was to board a flight to Pennsylvania.

One central question remains, even as U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday handed Regman the minimal sentence under federal guidelines for the four counts he pleaded guilty to: Why would a seminary student from Brooksville without a criminal record collect and transport explosives that could have blown a plane to bits?

"We couldn't answer that question, and that was the weird thing about this case," U.S. Attorney LaTour Lafferty said after the hearing. "We investigated every possible motive we had, but I apologized to the judge. I couldn't come in here and tell you what the motive was. But I do not believe it was an innocent, lawful purpose."

Regman pleaded guilty to one count of possession of an explosive at a regulated airport, and three counts of possession of an unregistered firearm, including a hand grenade, a short barrel rifle and a homemade silencer. In all, there were 14 firearms or explosive devices in the bags.

Merryday denied a motion by the defense to waive sentencing guidelines because of what federal Public Defender Craig Alldredge argued was Regman's aberrant behavior _ that it was a spontaneous and thoughtless act without substantial planning.

Authorities early in the investigation said they were searching for connections to a paramilitary group, but that link was never proven.

"We and the FBI spent a lot of time investigating this case and what we came up with was there was no indication he meant to harm anyone," Alldredge said after Regman was sentenced, "but it's not real clear why a seminary student would have a small arsenal with him."

Regman testified that collecting such items was a hobby. He was trying to take the explosives on a USAir flight to Scranton, Pa., where he was studying to become a priest at St. Tikhon's Seminary of the Orthodox Church in America. He maintained he was ignorant of U.S. regulations prohibiting air transport of the devices.

Regman and his mother came to the United States on permanent resident visas in 1992, and Regman enrolled in high school in Ohio, Alldredge said. In July, they moved to Brooksville, where Regman stayed when he wasn't at school.

"He isn't very worldly," Alldredge said. "It isn't like he's real familiar with the way things work in this country."

Two additional counts against Regman were dropped, including possession of a dangerous weapon and an explosive while attempting to board an aircraft. If convicted on all six counts, he could have faced 45 years in prison.

Regman's mother, Cornelia Regman, and his priest took the stand in defense of his character.

Two airport security officers testified that Regman never declared the paraphernalia to airport officials. The guns and explosives came to light only after the officers saw a black mass in Regman's carry-on bags as they passed under the X-ray machine. He had checked no luggage.