BILLINGS — A Billing man who admitted making grenades to blowup mailboxes and possessing a rifle after a felony conviction was sentenced today to five years and 10 months in prison and three years of supervised release, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.
Foster John Michael Witzel, 31, pleaded guilty on Sept. 1, 2020 to prohibited person in possession of a firearm and to possession of a destructive device.
U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided.
The prosecution said in court documents that on Feb. 2, 2020, Witzel was peering into a Billings residence before a homeowner scared him off. Billings Police officers found Witzel nearby and in possession of improvised grenades. Witzel made statements that he had made the devices out of gunpowder and BB’s and that he was going to “blow up mailboxes and stuff.” Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents determined the devices were grenades and that Witzel had not registered them in the National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record as required.
On June 15, 2020, Witzel was found asleep in a stolen car with an AR style rifle on his lap. Witzel was on probation at the time for a state felony conviction in Montana and was prohibited from possessing firearms.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Godfrey prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
This case is part of Project Guardian, a Department of Justice initiative launched in the fall of 2019 to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Through Project Guardian, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Montana is working to enhance coordination of its federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement partners in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes. In addition, Project Guardian supports information sharing and taking action when individuals are denied a firearm purchase by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for mental health reasons or because they are a prohibited person.