DENVER (AP) — A man who set off a small explosion near the NAACP office in Colorado Springs was sentenced Tuesday to five years in federal prison.
Thaddeus Murphy, 44, pleaded guilty in August to arson as part of an agreement with prosecutors, saying he was not targeting the nation's oldest civil rights organization.
Murphy has told authorities he made a crude pipe bomb in his garage and set it off against the building Jan. 6 because he was angry that his accountant did not return his calls or give him back his tax records. The accountant died a few months before the explosion but it's not clear if Murphy knew that.
The explosive caused minor damage after failing to ignite a gas canister placed next to it. The low-slung building, which also houses a barbershop, had a sign for an accountant's business at the time, but it had been closed for years.
Prosecutor Gregory Holloway acknowledged during the sentencing hearing that investigators had found newspaper articles about the racially charged Aug. 9, 2014, police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the Denver Post reported. But he also said they found no evidence that the explosion was racially motivated.
U.S. District Judge William Martinez was skeptical.
"Nobody sets off an (Improvised Explosive Device) because someone fails to return his phone call," he told prosecutors. But Murphy's attorney Timothy O'Hara said his client's heavy use of sleeping and pain pills might have accounted for his irrational behavior.
Meanwhile, Thomas Ravenelle, special agent in charge of the Denver FBI office, said Murphy's intent did not matter.
"Thaddeus Murphy detonated an explosive device to terrorize the community in Colorado Springs," Ravenelle said. "Whatever his intent, he threatened the safety and securities of our neighborhoods."
In addition to arson, Murphy pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. A search of his home turned up seven guns, including two assault rifles, a handgun, two shotguns, and a WWII era Russian-made battle rifle. Investigators also found a homemade silencer.
Before Murphy's plea agreement, he had faced a possible sentence of up to 30 years in prison and as much as $500,000 in fines.
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(Photo: Christian Murdock/The Colorado Springs Gazette via AP, file)