Crime - Sacto 911

Yuba City man gets nearly 6 years in prison for possessing weapons cache

A Yuba City man was sentenced Friday in Sacramento federal court to nearly six years in prison on a prior guilty plea to possessing an unregistered destructive device.

A heavily armed Michael Frederick Hesse was arrested in September 2012 after a high-speed chase triggered by a California Highway Patrol officer’s attempt to stop the minivan he was driving because of a broken headlight. Hesse crashed into a ditch, then threw a bag out of the vehicle. Officers later recovered the bag containing a loaded shotgun sawed off at the stock, and some of the pellet ammunition had been replaced with more lethal dimes.

A U.S. magistrate judge ordered Hesse held without bail as a flight risk and a danger to the community. He pleaded guilty in August to one count of a seven-county grand jury indictment and, in accordance with his plea deal, admitted that Yuba City police officers found in the van a camouflage tactical vest with ballistic trauma plates, a coffee can containing black powder and an explosive device with marbles taped to its exterior.

When they saw the device, the officers evacuated nearby homes and contacted the Beale Air Force Base Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team, which completed the search. The team found two more improvised explosive devices. All three were fabricated with a CO2 cartridge – a small disposable gas bottle with carbon dioxide in it – containing double-base smokeless powder and a fusing mechanism. The team also found chemicals, switches, wires and an explosive designed to blow up a vehicle airbag.

It turned out Hesse was a convicted felon and prohibited from possessing firearms and destructive devices. Shortly before the arrest, Hesse had also possessed a Ruger .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol, an unregistered silencer and a Smith and Wesson .32-caliber revolver.

Hesse, 35, was initially charged on multiple counts in Sutter Superior Court, and the local District Attorney’s Office offered him a plea bargain in 2012 that called for a three-year sentence, none of it served in prison and only half served in jail. But, before the deal could be consummated, federal authorities took custody of Hesse and he was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 7, 2013.

At Friday’s sentencing, prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez to order seven years and one month behind bars. But Candace Fry, considered by her colleagues to be a consistently effective defense lawyer, convinced Mendez that five years and 10 months was more appropriate in view of Hesse’s harsh youth and lack of guidance.

Denny Walsh: (916) 321-1189