White man avoids prison time after pleading guilty to planting bombs in downtown Pittsburgh

On Tuesday, The Washington Post explored the case of Matthew Michanowicz, a Pittsburgh man who planted bombs around an area where a Black Lives Matter protest had broken out in May 2020 — and why he received a surprisingly lenient sentence.

"The city was a tinder box that afternoon. Six days earlier, a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, sparking protests around the country. The day before, one in Pittsburgh devolved into a riot. Dozens were arrested. City leaders imposed a curfew," reported Jonathan Edwards. "The next day, Michanowicz rode his bike to check out the aftermath. He wheeled himself to a plaza below a skyscraper in the heart of downtown, planted the backpack with the three bombs he’d made and left. They never exploded, but prosecutors said they could have hurt or killed someone."

Ultimately, he was caught by police and pleaded guilty — but while prosecutors asked for at least 30 months in prison, U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose, sentenced him to time served, six months of house arrest, and three years of probation.

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"Michanowicz’s lawyer, Ken Haber, told The Post in a phone interview that the judge might have considered his client’s recent mental health issues and personal struggles," said the report. "Within a year of placing the bombs, Michanowicz lost his job as a successful medical salesman who worked with neurosurgeons. His father and a good friend died. He got divorced. 'I think the judge was somewhat convinced that he had a breakdown,' Haber said, adding that his client has stressed that he never meant for the devices to go off."

The murder of George Floyd triggered protests around the nation, and ultimately led to the conviction of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.