Pittsburgh, PA – A federal judge on Monday sentenced a man who planted a backpack full of bombs in downtown Pittsburgh during the George Floyd protests in 2020 to time served, plus probation.
Charging documents said that 53-year-old Matthew Michanowicz planted a camouflage backpack full of homemade bombs near PNC Plaza on May 31, 2020, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
A day earlier, the spot had been the scene of a riot and dozens of people were arrested, The Washington Post reported. The backpack, left by a bike rack under some trees, wasn’t spotted until the next day, and then police were called to check it out.
Officers responded to the scene on June 1 and found three improvised explosive devices (IED), the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The bomb squad was called in and its technicians determined the bombs were made from spent pepper spray canisters.
Charging documents said the wicks were held in place on the canisters with foam spray insulation, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The bomb squad and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said the improvised devices were filled with gasoline and could have killed people.
Investigators found surveillance video that showed Michanowicz rode a bike to the scene and planted the backpack, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Officers spotted Michanowicz on his bike on June 3, 2020 and took him into custody.
Authorities searched the suspect’s home and found fuses on Michanowicz’s workbench, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Investigators also found spray foam insulation and 10 camouflage backpacks just like the one he used to plant the bombs by PNC Plaza.
Michanowicz was indicted in 2020 and pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered destructive device in August, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Smolar had asked the judge to sentence Michanowicz to a prison term 30 to 37 months because someone could have been killed by his actions.
Smolar said Michanowicz’s substance abuse started early and was “at its peak” in the year before he planted the bombs downtown, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
She said he was using up to five bags of heroin a day, went to an inpatient drug abuse clinic in February of 2019, and received vivitrol injections as recently as May of 2020.
The prosecutor said Michanowicz’s wife had reported finding empty stamp bags and alcohol bottles in the house before he was arrested.
Former U.S. Attorney Scott Brady had called Michanowicz an “agitator” rather than a protester, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But none of that mattered because the judge who sentenced the would-be bomber decided the defendant had suffered enough.
On Dec. 6, U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose sentenced Michanowicz to time served and three years of probation with the first six months on home detention, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.