One of two men accused in WA substation attacks to be released from federal custody

Tony Overman/

A man accused of attacking four Washington state power stations on Christmas Day was ordered released from federal custody Friday after a renewed effort by his attorney to get him into a drug-treatment facility.

Matthew Greenwood, 32, was one of two Puyallup men charged with conspiracy to damage energy facilities for allegedly breaking into the Pierce County electrical substations and disrupting power for thousands. With purported co-conspirator, 40-year-old Jeremy Crahan, Greenwood intended to use the power outages as cover to commit a series of commercial burglaries, prosecutors say.

In granting Greenwood’s release on an appearance bond — essentially a promise to show up to future hearings and abide by conditions removing him from custody — U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan noted that the court was taking a public safety risk.

“It’s up to you to be sure that the risk is well-taken,” Bryan told Greenwood inside a U.S. District courtroom in Tacoma.

Bryan said that the conditions being placed on Greenwood — including electric monitoring, mandated drug treatment and anticipated supportive housing — did not totally remove him from the court’s control.

Greenwood confessed that he and Crahan stole from the cash register at one local business following the attacks, which caused at least $3 million in damages and left roughly 30,000 electric customers without power, according to court records and utilities officials. Prosecutors said the men had plotted a fifth attack.

Earlier this month, a federal judge denied bail for both men, pending a grand jury indictment, citing the potential danger they presented to the community. In recent court filings, prosecutors and Greenwood’s attorney, assistant federal public defender Rebecca Fish, argued over Fish’s latest efforts to release her client.

Prosecutors have previously called the crimes “as dangerous as they were reckless.” In the courtroom on Friday, assistant U.S. attorney Todd Greenberg said that Greenwood’s alleged disregard for community safety and purported casing of a fifth substation indicated that his release would be risky.

“Is this someone the court can trust to be safe in this community?” Greenberg said. “I think the answer to that is ‘no.’”

Fish reiterated circumstances that she had presented in earlier filings this month to contend that Greenwood was neither a flight risk nor a threat.

He has lived locally his entire life, had a tough upbringing and was expecting his first child, she wrote in the filings. He struggles with methamphetamine addiction, and his criminal track record, which does not include any violent offenses, was a reflection of that substance use disorder (SUD) and being impoverished, according to Fish.

“If released, Greenwood will receive intensive SUD treatment as well as mental health screening and support,” she wrote in a filing Thursday. “These conditions more than adequately address the prior desperation, recklessness, and poor judgment that the government highlights. If released under this plan, Mr. Greenwood will instead be clear-headed, well-supported, and secure in his family’s well-being.”

Fish said Friday that Greenwood would be subject to electric monitoring and that he was on a wait list for sober and supportive housing, which he would enter into following treatment. After Greenwood’s girlfriend finished a program “appropriate to her needs,” she would also enter into long-term supportive housing that she had already been accepted into, according to Fish.

“Mr. Greenwood certainly understands how serious the case is and the position he’s in,” she told Bryan, adding later: “His greatest priority is for his baby and his partner to be OK.”

Prior to the break-ins on Christmas Day, Washington had seen a decade-high number of confirmed or suspected attacks affecting the power grid in 2022, according to a News Tribune analysis of federal data. The trend mirrored increases in such incidents nationwide as federal authorities warned of threats to the grid from domestic terrorists.

While the conspiracy to damage energy facilities charge is considered a crime of terrorism, there has been no evidence uncovered to date that the attacks in Pierce County were politically motivated.

Greenwood and Crahan face up to 20 years in prison on the conspiracy charge, according to authorities. Greenwood faces another 10 years for possessing unregistered firearms after law enforcement said they seized two short-barrel guns from his residence following his Dec. 31 arrest.