A federal judge Monday sentenced a 23-year-old man to time served – the approximately year and a half he has spent in custody – for an attempted arson two years ago at the courthouse in downtown Portland where his hearing was held.
Joseph James Ybarra, according to prosecutors, lit a device and threw it at the front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse about 3:15 a.m. on July 22, 2020.
The device fell to the ground and Ybarra picked it up and threw it twice more, wrote Nathan Miller, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in a federal affidavit. It didn’t explode and no one was injured, according to Miller.
Ybarra, according to his lawyer, had just arrived in Portland by bus from Seattle the day before, intending to turn himself into authorities on an arrest warrant for a pending Multnomah County charge of unauthorized use of a vehicle.
But he was unable to enter the Justice Center because of the tumultuous crowd outside.
Instead, he “got wrapped up in it,” said his lawyer, Andrew Kohlmetz.
The federal courthouse and Justice Center in downtown Portland became a regular focus of demonstrations during more than 100 consecutive days of social justice protests and demonstrations that started shortly after the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
Ybarra was intoxicated at the time and suffers from schizophrenia, his lawyer said. The bottle thrown contained no flammable liquid, Kohlmetz said.
The crime was the result of “impulsive and unthinking actions of a young man beset by mental illness. This was most certainly not a politically motivated act of terrorism,” Kohlmetz told the court.
Ybarra has been in custody for a year and seven months, including about four months he’s spent at the Northwest Regional Reentry Center after he pleaded guilty to attempted arson in January.
He’s now stabilized on medication, Kohlmetz said. He urged Ybarra’s probation officer to connect Ybarra to Multnomah County’s disability services to help find him an appropriate residential home to live at, after he spends up to another 120 days at the halfway house.
U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut accepted the time-served sentence, recommended by both Kohlmetz and Assistant U.S. Attorney Parakram Singh.
“You can’t hold anything that can set a fire,” Immergut reminded Ybarra.
“Yes, I learned that,” he replied.
She ordered him to participate in substance abuse or alcohol treatment, mental health treatment and take all medication that is prescribed to him. She called the sentence a “just punishment,” and said she hopes the services he’s connected with will help him “to get on a better path.”
Of 96 federal protest-related prosecutions, 70 have been dismissed. Ybarra is among about eight people who pleaded guilty and have been sentenced. Prosecutions included defendants charged with civil disorder, destruction of government property, arson and assault on an officer.