Pennsylvania Man Who Planted Explosives After BLM Protest Sentenced to Probation, Thanks to Judge Who Was Convinced ‘He Had a Breakdown’

·4 min read

A Pennsylvania man who planted bombs at a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020 won’t spend any more time in jail after a district court judge sentenced him on Monday to time served and three years of probation.

Matthew Michanowicz, a 53-year-old Pennsylvania man, admitted he planted a backpack of explosives in downtown Pittsburgh hours after a Black Lives Matter protest in the days following George Floyd’s death last year.

Matthew Michanowicz, will not spend any more time behind bars in connection with leaving incendiary devices at the scene of the aftermath of a social justice protest in downtown Pittsburgh last year. (Photo: CBS Pittsburgh/ YouTube screenshot)
Matthew Michanowicz, will not spend any more time behind bars in connection with leaving incendiary devices at the scene of the aftermath of a social justice protest in downtown Pittsburgh last year. (Photo: CBS Pittsburgh/ YouTube screenshot)

None of the three bombs exploded, but prosecutors say they could have hurt or killed people if they detonated.

Judge Donetta W. Ambrose sentenced Michanowicz on time served for the 18 months he’s spent behind bars while awaiting trial, and three years of supervised release, starting with the first 180 days in home detention.

Michanowicz faced up to 10 years in prison for charges of illegal possession of an unregistered destructive device.

Defense attorney Ken Haber told The Washington Post Ambrose may have considered Michanowicz’s mental state when she handed down the lighter sentence.

“I think the judge was somewhat convinced that he had a breakdown,” Haber said. The attorney said. Michanowicz was stressed at the time that he planted the devices and didn’t intend for them to detonate or harm anybody, his defense claimed.

On May, 31, 2020, six days after former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin murdered Floyd, and one day after a Black Lives Matter protest turned destructive in downtown Pittsburgh, Michanowicz rode his bike to the area.

He left a camouflage backpack containing three explosive devices on 2 PNC Plaza. The next morning, police responded to the plaza over a report of a suspicious bag. Inside the bag were three “homemade Molotov cocktails,” police said.

Michanowicz had filled three pepper-spray containers with gasoline and stuck wicks inside.

Surveillance footage showing a man carrying the bag pointed police in Michanowicz’s direction. Days later, an officer spotted Michanowicz in the same area where the backpack was found.

He admitted he was the man seen on surveillance footage. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched Michanowicz’s home and found more materials similar to the ones used to make the devices, and 10 camouflage backpacks like the one planted at the scene.

Michanowicz pleased guilty in August 2021 to placing the bag filled with explosive devices at the plaza.

Around the time of the incident, Michanowicz had been having a difficult time, according to Haber. He’d recently lost his job as a medical salesman and his father and close friend had just died.

“This is the product of someone who was a highly successful person who had a bit of a breakdown,” Haber said.

Across the country, protesters have been sentenced to prison time for their roles in the demonstrations that spread across the country last year.

Shamar Betts, 20, was sentenced to four years in federal prison in August on charges of inciting a riot after he posted a provocative flyer on social media before a protest turned destructive in Salt Lake City, Utah.

From May to October of 2020, prosecutors filed more than 300 charges related to protests, according to The Prosecution Project.

Social media users criticized Michanowicz’s sentence.

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