Government says Youngstown man caught with explosives is danger to community

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Oliver Smith, charged with weapons under disability, youngstown.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Federal prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum filed this week that a man caught with explosive arrows in his South Side home is an “ongoing danger to the community.”

The memorandum said that despite a plea of guilty and acceptance of responsibility by Oliver Smith, 52, his past record of making the devices and having guns despite being on probation and not being allowed to should sway Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. from giving him a sentence below the sentencing guidelines in the case, for which he can receive a sentence of 33 to 41 months in prison.

“Simply, Smith poses an ongoing danger to the community,” prosecutors wrote in the memorandum, which was filed this week in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio.

“He manufactured explosive devices in the basement of his home, he stored the materials for those devices in his home, and he obtained and kept a firearm outfitted with a silencer, all while prohibited as a condition of probation,” prosecutors wrote. “These materials, moreover, were designed by him to be detonated remotely and expel shrapnel with a blast radius to inflict additional damage and injury.”

Smith’s attorneys, federal public defenders Stephen C. Newman and Jeffrey B. Lazarus, asked for a sentence of 24 months, saying their client has accepted responsibility for his actions and was tormented by the things he experienced in combat in Somalia in 1993, when he was there as a member of the U.S. Army and participated in the battle that is the basis of the movie “Black Hawk Down.”

His attorneys said he was receiving counseling for his mental health issues but he was not able to continue his treatment because of the pandemic.

A Youngstown man is facing federal charges after police say they found a gun, explosive devices, and arrows that were modified to explode inside his home.

Smith was indicted in February by a federal grand jury on charges of possession of explosive devices, possession of an unregistered silencer and being a felon in possession of a firearm after city police and parole agents visited his Hillman Street home in October and reported finding a .22-caliber pistol fitted with a silencer as well as two arrows filled with black powder and packed with nails, two boxes of black powder and ball bearings and a .22-caliber rifle.

After the explosive devices were reportedly found, federal agents were called in to assist in searching and securing the explosive devices.

Parole agents were doing a home search because Smith was on probation for charges out of Portage County.

Smith is expected to plead guilty and be sentenced Monday.

Prosecutors wrote that when Smith was interviewed by federal agents, he told them he had the devices in his home so he could show his children how to make them and handle them safely. However, prosecutors said his former girlfriend told investigators he was making the devices to prepare for a civil war he thought was imminent.

Defense attorneys said Smith, a native of Philadelphia, was in a group home before joining the Army at 18. He was a combat engineer and sent to Somalia in 1993 when the United Nations was trying to stabilize the country because of constant attacks by warlords.

According to his personnel and other Army records, defense attorneys wrote, Smith took part in the famous Battle of Mogadishu as depicted in the movie, where two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, 19 U.S. soldiers were killed, dozens were wounded and thousands of civilians and Somali fighters were killed and wounded in the resulting rescue attempt.

Smith continued serving after his enlistment was over in the National Guard but left in 2001 because of his mental health issues. He has severe anger issues because of the post traumatic stress disorder he got from his service in Somalia, defense attorneys said.

Defense attorneys said he was getting counseling since moving to Youngstown in 2012 but that was severely curtailed during the pandemic. They said a girlfriend who was addicted to drugs lived with him for awhile and she left the handgun and silencer in his home.

Smith also told agents the black powder and other explosive items had been in his home for years and he had no intention of using them, defense attorneys wrote. He learned how to make them from watching YouTube videos.

However, prosecutors said even though Smith is pleading guilty, his past record of buying items for the devices slowly so as to avoid detection and his military background make him a danger and deserving of the guideline sentence.

“It is difficult to fully accept his suggestion he will stop doing what he had been doing while on parole and what he has shown a compelling interest in, namely making improvised explosive devices,” prosecutors wrote.

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