One of these devices exploded on March 18 in Atherton and reportedly damaged the hearing of two Atherton police officers for several weeks, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
Mr. Levey was a student at Menlo College at the time and is originally from Los Angeles, Mr. Wagstaffe said.
Atherton police have outstanding $25,000 warrants for two friends of his believed to have been involved: Michael Guilfoile, 20, of Kawasaki, Japan, and Daljit Tut, 19, of Aptos, California. Four or five others participated but didn't come forward, Mr. Wagstaffe said.
Mr. Levey is free on a $25,000 bond and must surrender on Jan. 10, 2009, Mr. Wagstaffe said. Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan sentenced him to 10 days in jail, with credit for one day served, but recommended the sheriff's work program — picking up trash.
The sentence included three years of supervised probation, fines, restrictions on possessing weapons, and loss of his Fourth Amendment rights regarding search and seizure.
During his probation, Mr. Levey, his home and his vehicle may be searched with or without probable cause, and evidence of probation violations or crimes may be seized without a warrant, Mr. Wagstaffe said. Mr. Levey could have refused this condition, but would have faced mandatory time in prison.
The group is accused of building several devices, including one that exploded "somewhere on campus." The others were dumped on a street in an Atherton cul de sac, where a police officer kicked one, not knowing what it was, Mr. Wagstaffe said.
The explosion led to the officers' ears ringing and popping, Mr. Wagstaffe said.
The act of leaving the devices on the street, where anyone could have come along and picked them up, was what led to the felony charge, he said.
Two other felony charges, possession of a destructive device in a public place and making such a device without a permit, would have landed Mr. Levey in prison, but those charges were dropped, Mr. Wagstaffe said.
"We felt that was too harsh a punishment," he said.
Chuck Smith, Mr. Levey's attorney and a former San Mateo County deputy DA, called the felony charges and the plea bargain an abuse. Drunken driving, by comparison, is a misdemeanor, he said.
"This was a stupid college prank," he said in a telephone interview. "To brand him a bomb-making felon for the rest of his life is wrong."
If Mr. Levey meets all the conditions of his probation, Judge Cretan may reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor after 18 months, Mr. Wagstaffe said. The case can be dismissed after probation, giving him a clean record for purposes of most employment.
The felonious aspect of the case will be found on the Web by a diligent investigator even after state records are changed, Mr. Smith said.