A man with a prior criminal record will spend five years in federal prison after confessing to detonating a pipe bomb early this year outside a Colorado Springs building housing an NAACP office and a hair salon.
No one was injured in the Jan. 6 bombing, but two NAACP volunteers and the owner of the salon were in the building at the time.
A surveillance camera on a nearby home and witness descriptions of the suspect’s vehicle ultimately led an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to identify and arrest Thaddeus Cheyenne Murphy on Feb. 19. He has previous convictions for theft, burglary and fraud, court records indicate.
The 44-year-old Colorado Springs man was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Denver after pleading guilty to attempting to destroy a building with an improvised explosive device and being a felon in possession of firearms.
He could have been sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison on the federal attempted firebombing charge and an additional 10 years on the firearms charge because of his criminal history. But federal prosecutors agreed to the five-year sentence because of Murphy’s “acceptance of responsible” under sentencing guidelines and because they couldn’t prove a racial motive for the bombing.
Murphy immediately confessed to the bombing when federal agents interviewed him in February, claiming wanted to get the attention of his accountant who wouldn’t return phone calls.
While entering his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez, Murphy contended he planted the explosive device in the mistaken belief his accountant had an office in the building, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported. But the accountant died several months before the bombing and is not clear if he ever had an office in the building that Murphy bombed.
In response to question from the judge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Holloway revealed that investigators who examined Murphy’s computer found newspaper reports about the August 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, leading to civil unrest and rioting in Ferguson, Mo.
However, the prosecutor added, there was widespread public interest in the events surrounding Ferguson. The Denver Post quoted the prosecutor telling the court: “From what we were able to uncover there was no evidence of racial animus [on Murphy’s part].”
During the search of Murphy’s home, agents found seven firearms, including two assault rifles, a handgun, two shotguns and a WWII-era Russian military rifle, court documents say. An illegal homemade silencer also was seized.