TULALIP — A Tulalip man was sentenced to federal prison for making homemade explosives to protect himself from “riots” and storing them in his house.
Samuel Archie Matta pleaded guilty to possession of destructive devices in July. On Oct. 16, U.S. District Court Judge John H. Chun gave Matta 21 months in prison.
In April 2022, Tulalip police arrested Matta, 36, for physically assaulting his neighbors and shooting one of them with a BB gun, according to court documents. Matta was later convicted of criminal mischief in Tulalip Tribal Court and sentenced to 275 days in jail.
A few days after the assault, police obtained a warrant to search his home for other weapons.
Police found several explosive devices, multiple BB guns, knives, bows and arrows, rifle ammunition, throwing stars, swords and other weapons, the charges say.
A couple weeks later, Matta’s brother called investigators back to the house after he found suspicious chemical and “shrapnel bombs,” court documents said.
Bomb technicians reported the “explosives” as safe. Some appeared to be plastic bottles filled with explosive powder, wrapped with metal nuts, bolts, and other items, investigators reported. Other fireworks had metal spikes attached to them, which gave them a good “kick,” Matta said in a police interview at Snohomish County Jail.
Matta explained the devices were made specifically for the “riots” he saw happening in 2020, adding that he was afraid the riots would make it to his street, according to court documents.
Matta’s defense attorney, Peter Camiel, argued for 1½ years in prison, arguing, “there is no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Matta used, intended to use, or had any plan to use the devices to harm anyone.”
Matta’s belief about the riots were a “sincerely held but irrational and delusional fear that developed during the pandemic and the social unrest protests…,” his attorney wrote in a sentencing document.
Prosecutors argued for a little over three years in prison. Acting U.S. attorney Tessa Gorman wrote Matta’s “dangerousness” was apparent given his history of mental health issues, social isolation and recent conviction for assaulting his neighbor.
“Absent a requirement to engage in treatment and take any prescribed medication,” Gorman wrote, “the government is gravely fearful the Defendant will become a revolving door of crime commission and prison admission with a trail of victims left in his wake.”
Chun credited Matta for the 18 months he’s already served in Snohomish County Jail.
In a long letter submitted to the court, Matta expressed regret.
“Although I felt the reasons I had for owning these devices were many, I also understand that having them was very dangerous,” Matta wrote.