David Shultz II, a Washington-based extractor, was sentenced Monday to nine years in prison by a U.S. District Court Judge. Schultz, 33, was found primarily responsible for an explosion in late 2013 that destroyed an apartment building in the town of Bellevue, Washington.
Among his charges was endangering human life while manufacturing a controlled substance. The explosion injured three residents in the building as they tried to escape the blaze. One, the 87 year-old former mayor Nan Campbell, died weeks later from complications of a broken pelvis endured after tripping and falling on her way out of the building the fire. Two others suffered broken bones after jumping from windows and fire escapes.
Federal prosecutors sought the maximum penalty of ten years for Schultz. While the presiding Judge James Robert offered a small measure of leniency in his sentencing, he also seemed to want to make an example of Schultz. “We need to educate the public that the legalization of marijuana in the state of Washington is not unlimited and it does not include the manufacturing of homemade hash oil,” said Robart.
The U.S. attorney’s office seemed to echo that sentiment in their sentencing memo, which read, “…it is important to send a public message that merely because some marijuana-related activity is now tolerated, that does not mean that those who go too far … will escape prosecution and significant criminal sanction.”
The other two men involved in the extraction, whom the prosecutors seem to believe bankrolled the operation while Schultz performed the actual procedure, will be sentenced next month. Federal prosecutors are seeking only four year prison terms in their cases.
Nan Campbell was a former city councilwoman and the first female mayor in Bellevue history. According to friends and family, she was still an active member of the political community. Even after her injury on Election Day of 2013, she kept tabs on the day’s polls from her hospital bed. Campbell died less than two weeks later.
According to Schultz’s lawyer, assistant federal public defender Mohammad Hamoudi, Schultz had suffered from poverty, mental illness, homelessness, and childhood abuse, and was not responsible for his own actions.
Not long after the explosion, Schultz was found by police in a Los Angeles motel room with butane and blasting equipment. He had posted boastful pictures of his concentrates on his Facebook feed the day before the explosion. In the months after Campbell’s death he posted photos of him posing with stacks of cash, buds he claimed to have grown, and inspirational messages about faith in God and destiny – none of which referenced the Bellevue explosion. His frequently updated Facebook timeline went silent as of July 2014.
In a letter to the court, Schultz apologized and wrote, “I only got involved in this because I thought that the legalization movement of marijuana in Washington would provide me with funds to be a part of my boys [sic] lives, and it went so far in the opposite direction I can’t think of it without crying, or having a panic attack. Looking back and seeing the percentage that marijuana took up of my life makes me sick.”
Photo via Steve Sexton/Bellevue Fire Department/Associated Press