A suspected white supremacist and drug addict who planted a bag of explosives at a Black Lives Matter protest in Pittsburgh last year had the privilege of avoiding any jail time, thanks to a lenient sentence that was apparently inspired out of sympathy for the convicted felon’s history of substance abuse.
Pittsburgh man Matthew Michanowicz on Monday was sentenced to just three years of probation that included the first six months to be served at his home, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Technically, Michanowicz was convicted of possession of an unregistered destructive device, a felony. But when you get down to brass tacks, the facts of the matter are that Michanowicz, 53, brought a camouflage bag filled with Molotov cocktails and planted it at a protest demanding justice for George Floyd’s killing less than a week after Derek Chauvin murdered the unarmed Black man in Minneapolis. The ATF described Michanowicz’s bombs as improvised devices containing gasoline that could kill.
Even though the bombs never detonated, Michanowicz’s intentions could not have been any clearer. Whether he truly wanted to inflict violent pain upon social justice protesters or just use the bombs to intimidate, he targeted a BLM protest for a reason.
Prosecutors were seeking more than three years in prison for Michanowicz, but U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose handed down the light sentence after the defense attorney described his client’s drug addiction. The Post Gazette reported that Michanowicz’s lawyer said the would-be bomber has been using drugs since he was a kid and his addiction to opiates was conveniently “at its peak” right around the time he planted the explosives at the BLM protest.
“He used up to five bags of heroin a day, had been an inpatient at a Florida abuse clinic in February 2019,” the Post-Gazette reported as if that was a valid excuse for what sure seem like crimes deserving of attempted murder charges.
Judge Ambrose took the bait and decided to remand Michanowicz to the comforts of his own home instead of the confines of a jail cell.
In sharp contrast, the sympathy Ambrose extended to Michanowicz was emphatically absent in a 2019 case that featured a Black defendant being convicted as a drug dealer in possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. In that instance, Ambrose sentenced Kawama Hightower, 41, to three years and 10 months in prison, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported at the time.
Ambrose reportedly said during Hightower’s sentencing that she wanted to “hold him accountable for his crimes, reflect the seriousness of his crimes and protect the public.”
That sentiment was nowhere to be found at Michanowicz’s sentencing for an admitted crime that also posed a grave risk to the public.
But then again, this is America.