Joel Elliott Sentenced To 37 Years For Torching Sheridan Co. Attorney Office
A man who tried to burn down the Sheridan County Attorney's office in June 2014 will spend 37 years in federal prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl also ordered Joel Elliott to pay in restitution during the sentencing hearing on Friday.
Elliott's crimes seemed to be an anomaly, who apparently had no record before three years ago, Skavdahl said. "Something went horribly wrong in your life."
Elliott, 37, has a strong family, intelligence, and grew up with a strong work ethic, the judge said.
But his actions put many people at risk and could have killed someone, Skavdahl said. "You have justly and sadly earned the sentence you will (receive) today."
In October, a jury found Elliott guilty of arson by means of an explosive of a building receiving federal funds creating a substantial risk of injury; using a firearm (in this case an incendiary bomb) during a crime of violence of a building receiving federal funds; possession of an unregistered firearm, namely a improvised incendiary bomb; and false declaration before a grand jury. (A count of using fire or an explosive to commit a felony was later dismissed.)
This case began a year-and-a-half ago when Elliott was about to plead guilty to forgery in Sheridan County Court, and he was afraid of losing his gun rights as a result, according to court records.
The Sheridan County Attorney's Office also was prosecuting him for felony stalking of a former girlfriend, and Elliott was mad at two prosecutors who were friends of the woman.
So early June 4, 2014, he poured gasoline throughout the county attorney building and ignited it with a small homemade bomb a few hours later when he thought the gas and air mixture would have caused an explosion. The fire caused $900,000 in damage. No one was injured.
Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart Healy III read a letter from Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle, who wrote the fire emotionally damaged office staff by putting them in a constant state of fear.
Elliott's attorney Keith Nachbar unsuccessfully tried to persuade Skavdahl to make the sentences for three of the crimes concurrent with the mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years for using an incendiary bomb during a crime of violence against a building receiving federal funds.
Elliott himself declined to comment before his sentencing.
Skavdahl handed down a sentence of seven years for arson of a building received federal funds (the mandatory minimum sentence), seven years for possession of an unregistered firearm (the explosive device), and five years for false declaration before a grand jury. The total 19 years will be served concurrently, or seven years for the total. The 30 years for using the bomb during a crime of violence is automatically added to that.
After the hearing, Healy said this sentence is consecutive to time he is serving for crimes in the state justice system.
Elliott may be back in federal court soon. He was being held by the U.S. Marshals at the Natrona County Detention Center, but tried to escape during the winter storm early Tuesday morning.
The U.S. Marshals and the Natrona County Sheriff's Office are still investigating that escape attempt, Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Aaron Shatto said Friday.