Man sentenced to 8 years for series of crimes

A man with a history of building explosive devices — including an incident in which he threatened to use them to carry out an attack at Palisade High School when he was a student there — has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

The sentence handed down last week by Mesa County District Judge Richard Gurley for Robert Del Johnson, 25, was less than the 10 years sought by prosecutors but more than the three years requested by defense attorneys, according to Deputy District Attorney Danielle Warly.

The sentence covers numerous crimes committed by Johnson late last year and early this year that had drugs as a common thread weaving through them.

He was first arrested in November for breaking into a storage unit and stealing more than $400 worth of items. Police found him in possession of methamphetamine and burglary tools, Warly said.

A series of arrests followed: He was found building pipe bombs in a garage he had been staying in. He broke into the house of two former roommates who had taken him in and stole a number of items, including a knife collection. He stole a Chevrolet Suburban and broke into another sport-utility vehicle and stole items including a gun, stereo system and wallet. He then sold the gun for meth, and the firearm was used in the commission of another crime, according to Warly.

In all, Johnson pleaded guilty to felony counts of burglary, possession of an explosive device, theft, first-degree criminal trespass and possession of a weapon by a previous offender, as well as a misdemeanor count of motor-vehicle theft.

Johnson’s criminal history dates back to at least 2009, when, as a student at Palisade, he threatened to detonate bombs at the school. He was sentenced to two years in Community Corrections after failing to comply with an earlier deferred sentence, according to court records.

He was arrested again in 2013 after friends told police he had threatened to build pipe bombs and “kill everyone.” He was sentenced to three years probation and was just getting ready to complete that sentence when he violated the terms, then was arrested on the new cases, Warly said.

Warly said she typically tries to show compassion toward defendants who abuse drugs in the cases she handles because she wants them to get help. In this case, though, she said the impacts of Johnson’s drug addiction extended beyond him.

“If someone’s substance abuse issues are causing a lot of harm, then that’s when we need to evaluate this as being beyond a drug issue,” she said.


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