A Saco man was recently sentenced in federal court on one count of possession of an unregistered explosive device, seven months after he was arrested for trying to sell what prosecutors claimed was a bomb to an undercover police officer.
The timeline of events illustrates one of the most important practical differences between state and federal charges: Federal charges take far longer to work through the justice system.
Saco Man Arrested for Trying to Sell Bomb
The 23-year-old man from Saco was originally arrested back on December 12, 2018. According to the police at the Saco Police Department, on July 10, 2017, officers received a tip from someone in the area who claimed that the young man had tried selling him an explosive device.
The next day, an undercover agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) – a federal agency in the U.S. Department of Justice – reached out to the young man about the device. The two met two days later, on July 13, 2017. The Saco man offered to sell what he apparently called a “military grade” improvised explosive device for $350.
According to police, after negotiations, the two agreed to a $200 sale. The device was a small metal container filled with 26 pennies, magnets, three soda can tabs, a pendant, and an unknown powder.
An analysis at the ATF decided that the device met the federal definition of an explosive device.
It was not until a year-and-a-half later that the arrest was made.
Three months after that, on February 12, 2019, the Saco man pleaded guilty to charges that could carry up to $10,000 in fines and ten years in jail.
On June 25, 2019 – nearly two years after the alleged sale – the judge issued a jail sentence of 27 months in federal prison, plus three years of supervised release afterward.
The Lengthy Federal Justice System Raises Serious Problems
While far fewer criminal cases are prosecuted at the federal level than at the state level, criminal defendants like this man from Saco are put through an extended process because there are also far fewer courts and judges in the federal system.
As a result, defendants find themselves facing a lengthy period of legal limbo – without knowing whether they will be free or in jail in five years time, they are unable to plan effectively for their future.
In this particular case, most of that time was between the alleged sale and the arrest. However, the nearly two years that transpired between the alleged sale and the eventual sentence is far shorter than it could have been if the Saco defendant did not plead guilty to the offense. If he had fought the charges and brought them to trial, it could easily have taken twice as long.