41 Months in Prison for Arson of Minneapolis Police Station, Theft


From a Justice Department press release yesterday:

A St. Paul man was sentenced yesterday to 41 months in prison for his role in the arsons at the Minneapolis Police Department's Third Precinct building.

According to court documents, on the night of May 28, 2020, Branden Michael Wolfe, 23, went to the Third Precinct where a crowd of hundreds had gathered. At one point, the crowd began shouting, "Burn it down, burn it down." Soon after, a fence that was designed to keep trespassers out of the Third Precinct was torn down. Wolfe pushed a barrel into a fire located in the entrance of the Third Precinct headquarters, which had been set by other unidentified co-conspirators, with the intent to accelerate the existing fire.

Wolfe also entered the Third Precinct building and stole several items, including a police vest, duty belt, handcuffs, earpiece, baton, knife, riot helmet, pistol magazine, police radio, police overdose kit, uniform name plates, and ammunition. Wolfe was arrested on June 3, 2020, wearing the police vest, the duty belt and carrying the tactical baton.

"Mr. Wolfe furthered the destruction that took place in Minneapolis last summer by literally adding fuel to the fire. In addition to the arson, Mr. Wolfe stole body armor, weapons, and ammunition belonging to the Minneapolis Police Department," said Acting U.S. Attorney Anders Folk. "This sentence underscores the seriousness of Mr. Wolfe's actions and holds him to account."

"ATF is committed to investigating the civil unrest arsons of 2020 that occurred throughout the Twin Cities," said Special Agent in Charge Terry Henderson, of the ATF St. Paul Field Division. "Arson, being inherently violent, is a serious crime that puts our community members and first responders at risk, and it cannot be tolerated."

"The FBI's mission is to uphold the Constitution, which includes freedom of speech and the right to assemble," said Michael Paul, special agent in charge of the FBI's Minneapolis field office. "Branden Wolfe crossed the line and engaged in criminal activity during the evening the Third Precinct building was burned down last May. People who choose to engage in violent activity during protests may believe they are anonymous, but they are mistaken and will be held accountable for their crimes."

On December 21, 2020, Wolfe pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit arson. As part of his sentencing, Wolfe was ordered to serve two years of supervised release and pay $12 million in restitution.

Co-conspirators Bryce Michael Williams, 27, and Davon De-Andre Turner, 25, have all pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit arson for their roles in the arson at the Third Precinct building. They will be sentenced at a later date.

This case was the result of an investigation conducted jointly by the ATF, the FBI, the Minneapolis Police Department, and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Harry M. Jacobs and David P. Steinkamp.

NEXT: What does "equity" mean?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

    1. There is agreement in the land.

      1. Assume the validity of the current value of life is $6 million for EPA cost benefit analyses.

        If someone causes more damage than that amount, unless he can re-imburse the damages, he should forfeit his life.

        1. Going to be a whole lot of guys on Wall Street looking for new jobs or updating their wills.

          1. You say this as if it were a bad thing...

    2. The prison time, sure. The $12 million in restitution seems a bit much, though, if all he did for the arson was push a barrel into an already-existing fire.

      1. I don't think a fine based on restitution instead of punishment survives a bankruptcy.

        1. Ummmmm.... I'd like to see the take of a bankruptcy attorney on that because I'm not so sure about that. In fact, I am reasonably certain that the opposite is true.

          Now where on earth he is expected to obtain $12M, that's another story...

        2. You're mistaken. Criminal restitution is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

      2. Yeah, where did they pull that number out of.

  1. Good. There's hope, at least. I wish some of the destructive, arsonist rioters in Portland would be convicted similarly.

  2. 41 months for this guy, 41 months for the serial SWAT guy. Is there some 3.417-year chemical in the water at these courthouses?

  3. So 41 months for arson, plus all this:

    Wolfe also entered the Third Precinct building and stole several items, including a police vest, duty belt, handcuffs, earpiece, baton, knife, riot helmet, pistol magazine, police radio, police overdose kit, uniform name plates, and ammunition. Wolfe was arrested on June 3, 2020, wearing the police vest, the duty belt and carrying the tactical baton.

    Seems like "zip tie guy" Eric Munchel should end up somewhere around time served under that calculus. I'm sure that's how it'll work out.

    1. Exactly.

      Although are those thefts Federal offenses? (Or just state ones?)

      1. 18 USC 666 punishes theft by insiders from entities receiving federal funds (like the Massachusetts State Police who claimed overtime they never worked). I thought there was a law that covered the general public stealing from federally-supported entities but I can't find it.

        1. Why should there be? Wouldn't any federal facility located in a state be covered by state law on those matters?

  4. Seems very light. It doesn't look like they're prosecuting for the theft at all, just conspiracy to commit arson.

    It seems like the justice system often goes easy on those people.

      1. Three years for arson, plus stealing weapons and ammo from a police station?

        1. 3 years and 5 months is a LOT of prison time. It is a very severe punishment.

          One of the worst aspects of our carceral state is this notion that years-long prison sentences are slaps on the wrist. You would not want to spend 3 years and 5 months in the federal joint.

          1. I wouldn't want to spend a couple weeks. But for burning down a police station? Plus theft of weapons and ammunition? It seems like it's a carceral state for some more than others.

            1. Seems like you're straining to make up a double standard where none is in evidence.

              1. If you say so. We'll see how the other guys do.

                1. You realize that federal sentences are determined by the Guidelines, right? (Yes, I know that they're no longer mandatory. But they're virtually always followed.) Before deciding based on no evidence that this is some free pass, maybe look at the PSR? Or read the judge's sentencing order? Find out how it was determined?

                  1. And the guideline sentences are determined by what's charged, which doesn't appear to include the theft, according to the press release, or actual arson.

                    But your point that all the defendants are charged with the same thing is taken. We'll see how they turn out.

      2. Sarcastr0: No, Jesus, got more than 41 months.

        1. I heard Jesus got 3 days.

          It was a rookie mistake, trying to impose the death penalty on a messiah.

          1. I heard Jesus got 3 days.

            His Father's a judge ...


        2. Mr. Volokh: You stole my reply!

          Well played.

      3. "Jesus, dude."

        Don't believe everything you see on Fox News, Sarcastro.

  5. They should all be executed.

  6. My son was evicted from his apartment so he started a fire in it. Got 40 years for arson. I'll be over 100 when he gets out.

  7. If they had stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, they would have been machine-gunned to death before they got up the second step. Instead of what actually happened with Trump supporters, practically given a guided tour.

    1. No, Nancy Pelosi's police force was told to not be ready for big or unruly crowds, despite warnings from lots of people, including Trump. They Capitol police didn't have machine guns. Besides, police don't shoot left-wing protesters, much less arbitrarily shoot them in the neck.

      And yet somehow, the pro-Trump rioters managed not to burn down any buildings -- unlike this guy. But, hey, the FBI raided the wrong lady's house looking for a stolen laptop. That's... something.

      1. Nancy Pelosi does not have a police force.

    2. On the contrary, the Trump supporters are being hunted down for the crime of trespassing on the capitol or pointing a gun at an armed army of protestors who had broken down their neighborhood's gate. On the other hand, mass riots from the left that involve arson, theft, and murder have gone practically unpunished.

      In fact, the capitol riot was the only one that I am aware where a protestor was shot dead on the spot.

      1. There was a shooting in Portland last summer.

  8. Why are the Feds having to prosecute what should rightfully be state level offenses? Oh wait, I'll raise my hand because I think I know the answer. Regressive DA's in the liberal cities give rioters a pass as long as they are of the "right" political leanings. These prosecutions were brought under the Trump administration. I doubt Biden's "Justice" Department would have done so.

    They will get to hide behind prosecutorial discretion in the courts, but the people should not let the government get away with the double standard by which the capitol hill patriots are being held to when BLM terrorists get a free pass. Time to start demanding accountability and free political prisoners.

    1. If I were being charged, I would much rather face a Hennepin County (Minneapolis) jury than a federal jury, which pulls in from lots of rural outstate counties. My chances of getting someone sympathetic to what I did would go up significantly.

  9. Lathering the rubes
    A right-wing law professor
    Lathering his rubes

    He's owning the libs
    by misappropriating

    1. I wasn't planning on using the mute button, but I just did and it felt oh so right.

    2. Yeah, burning down police stations is super-libertarian...

  10. If they had crossed the line from accelerant to "destructive device" while causing the same damage this would be considered an act of terrorism with an expected sentence of multiple decades.

Please to post comments