Grand jury indictment in ‘pipe bomb’ case

A grand jury indictment was handed down last week in Potter County against a Gettysburg man, alleging charges of possession and intent to make a “pipe bomb.”

According to documents filed with the office of the Potter County Clerk of Courts, Adam M. Westphal, 34, is charged with one count of possession of destructive device, and one count of unauthorized possession of substances with intent to make destructive device. The charges are Class 4 and Class 5 felonies, which carry up to 10 years imprisonment and $20,000 in fines, and up to five years imprisonment and $10,000 in fines, respectively.

The allegations stemmed from an explosion in the garage at Westphal’s home on June 9. 

Westphal made an appearance in this case on Monday, July 16 in Potter County court with his attorney, Aloysius Arendt. Arendt asked that Westphal’s bond be reduced from the current $100,000 cash amount, telling the court that his client was suffering from significant financial distress at this time and was virtually no flight risk or danger to the community, since he had family and owned property in Gettysburg. Arendt said that the current bond amount would keep his client behind bars, and asked that it be lowered to a “reasonable” amount. 

Westphal is being held in the Faulk County jail. 

Arendt also told the court that they were “treading water” because he was nearly 100% certain that this case will go federal, but asked that until the feds get around to indicting his client, that the bond be reduced.

Potter County State’s Attorney Craig Smith told the judge that while he does concur that Westphal has family in the area, the concern is that he is a risk to the community. Smith described some of the items at the scene of the June 9 explosion, saying that the accused was drilling into a propane tank, and there were wicks, cricket bombs, gunpowder, and pipes that could be used in the construction of bombs. They also found a container with meth residue. Smith named weapons found on the property, and said they also found seven burner cell phones. He said that the TV and computer screens displayed multiple views from surveillance cameras. He reiterated that he was very concerned about the safety of the community, and recommended that bond remain at $100,000 cash. 

Arendt countered by saying his client is a contractor, so it would not be unusual to find pipes in the garage, and admitted to having some in his own garage. He noted that his client should not be kept in jail for having security cameras, again noting that he has cameras on his own property. As far as having guns, the attorney pointed out that most men in South Dakota own weapons. He said the burner phones had cracked screens, and told the court that “what we have is some smoke, but no fire.”

Judge Mark Barnett told Arendt that he was “very artfully” not addressing the bomb, and that it appeared that the state and feds are alarmed, and what they may have is a “well armed, bomb making, meth using person.” The judge said he was leaving the bond where it was originally set at $100,000 cash, and added that if the feds lead the charge they would likely have more information from the ATF, which is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It was also commented that Westphal had priors and a meth case was pending. 

The judge said that if it turns out that the accused is “just a contractor with pipes in his garage,” the bond amount will be reconsidered after the feds have further investigated. 

-Molly McRoberts

One response to “Grand jury indictment in ‘pipe bomb’ case”

  1. Karla Schmidt says:

    Who cares if there is family in that area come on Smith there is all kinds of family there and some members get in trouble so this person is no different they do the crime they pay the price I got in trouble one time many years ago they did not give a shit that I had family there open your eyes or is the money under the table if the shoe fit wear it

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