PORTLAND – A Portland man will spend close to two years in federal prison for building and keeping pipe bombs in the apartment on Park Avenue that he shared with his grandmother last summer.

Michael Pressey, 30, was sentenced Tuesday by Judge D. Brock Hornby in U.S. District Court. He had pleaded guilty to possession of unregistered destructive devices.

Police discovered the 19 pipe bombs during an early-morning raid of three apartments in the city on Aug. 17 — the culmination of a long-term drug trafficking investigation.

The nearby Portland Exposition Building and Portland Ice Arena were evacuated that morning, and Portland’s bomb squad detonated some of the devices in a municipal parking lot.

Pressey was charged with the federal offense, and he and two other men were indicted on drug charges in state court. That case against Pressey has not been resolved; he denies any involvement in drug trafficking.

At first, police believed that Pressey may have been stockpiling the pipe bombs for potential use against rivals over drug territory.

But at Tuesday’s sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee said no evidence emerged to support that theory. Instead, it appears that bomb-making was a hobby of sorts for Pressey and other members of his family, and it was something he had done since he was a boy.

He said he didn’t know he had to register the devices with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“There’s no profit motive here, there’s no evil motive,” said Pressey’s lawyer, Peter Rodway. “This crime was committed out of ignorance.”

Judge Hornby said Pressey should have known that possession of pipe bombs is against the law, and that keeping them in an apartment in downtown Portland put many people at risk.

When news spread about the police raid and seizure of the bombs, it generated great fear in Pressey’s community, Hornby said.

“This was a family tradition that was illegal and highly dangerous,” the judge said. “The significance of the crime, even though Mr. Pressey was unaware that what he was doing was illegal, was so severe.”

Hornby sentenced Pressey to two years, but subtracted 38 days that Pressey served in the Cumberland County Jail last summer.

Pressey’s father, mother and sister spoke to Hornby, describing Pressey as a kind, conscientious and smart man who has worked extremely hard to make amends to the family while he has been free on bail.

“Michael has always been one to help. I don’t think he has a malicious bone in his body,” Charles Pressey told the judge.

Pressey continues to study toward his college degree in electrical engineering. He complied so well with his bail conditions that his probation officer asked the court to lift some of the restrictions on him. Pressey told Hornby that he plans to do 1,000 hours of community service after his release.

“I’m sorry for what I have done,” Pressey said. “I plan on never being back in front of this court or any other court.”

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

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