A former federal police officer is set to plead guilty to trying to manufacture methamphetamine at a federal science lab in the Washington suburbs and causing an explosion. Christopher Bartley, 41, is due in court today and his lawyer says he'll enter a guilty plea. The explosion occurred July 18 on the campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. The lawyer says Bartley wasn't trying to make methamphetamine for his personal use. Instead, the lawyer claims, Bartley was "conducting an unauthorized training experiment which failed." He says his client wanted to learn more about how meth is made in order to train the officers he supervised.
Bartley was a lieutenant and supervisor with the institute's police force, says an institute spokeswoman. He resigned his position a day after the explosion. He was treated at a hospital for injuries he suffered in the blast, in which no one else was hurt. Authorities who responded to the explosion found pseudoephedrine, Epsom salt, and other materials associated with the manufacture of meth. Bartley is an Army veteran with no criminal record and no history of drug use, his lawyer says. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison but is likely to receive far less time under federal guidelines. (In Iowa, cops found remnants of a meth lab inside a Taco Bell.)