Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, June 14, 2022


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Panel: Damaging Property With Bomb Doesn’t Necessarily Fit Category of ‘Violent’


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A man who, having been banished from a motorcycle gang, retaliated by placing a bomb in an alley behind the gang leader’s home—resulting in severe injuries to a third party who, while picking up aluminum cans in the alley, detonated the device, resulting in severe injuries to him and accelerating his death—did not commit what necessarily amounts to a “crime of violence,” the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held yesterday.

Richard Glen Mathews was found guilty by a jury in 1993 of six felony counts. One of them was damaging or destroying property by means of an explosive, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §844(i).

Because that offense does not always fit the category of a “crime of violence,” Circuit Judge Danielle J. Forrest said in yesterday’s opinion, Mathews’s 1993 conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) for using or carrying a firearm during a crime of violence—with “firearm” being defined to include a bomb—must be vacated. The opinion reverses an order by District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez of the Southern District of California denying relief.

The government had conceded that Mathews’s motion for an order vacating the conviction should have been granted.

Wording of Statute

Forrest explained:

“We agree with the parties that Mathews’s property-damage conviction is not categorically a crime of violence and. therefore, cannot serve as a predicate crime for his firearm conviction. Section 924(c) defines a crime of violence as an offense committed against ‘the person or property of another’…(emphasis added). A person can be convicted under Section 844(i) for using an explosive to destroy his or her own property….As such. Section 844(i) criminalizes conduct that falls outside Section 924(c)’s definition of ‘crime of violence,’ and there is not a categorical match between the two statutes.”

The judge commented:

“No doubt it is strange to classify placing a bomb in an alleyway for the purpose of causing harm to another person or their property as not a crime of violence, particularly where the bomb was picked up by an innocent bystander who was seriously injured by the detonation. But that is what the law requires of us in this case.”

Mathews’s Sentence

Mathews had been sentenced to 41 years and three months in prison. Of that term, 30 years was in the firearm count.

The court reversed the denial of a motion, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2255, to vacate the conviction and sentence, and remanded with instructions to scratch the firearm conviction and to resentence.

The case is United States v. Mathews, 19-56110.


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