Utah man investigated in government bomb-threat case to serve 2 years in plea deal

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man whose case was a target of a special FBI task force for allegedly plotting to bomb government offices has taken a plea deal on a weapons charge.

Keith Max Pierce, 35, of Provo, will serve two years in a federal prison and get mental health treatment after pleading guilty to possession of a machine gun. Two other weapons charges were dropped against him in the deal.

Pierce has been imprisoned since he was arrested more than a year ago in a case that was called a success story for the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Utah.

FBI agents said he stockpiled bomb-making materials and made plans to blow up an Internal Revenue Service office and other government offices, as well as kill members of Congress who voted for the Patriot Act.

The three charges against him, though, related only to allegations that he sold an AR-15 rifle that was modified to fire in full automatic mode to an undercover agent in May 2013.

"Sometimes there are things we think are important for the judge to know that may or may not develop into charges," said Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

His federal defender, attorney Mark Gregersen, argued that the government had no solid evidence of a bomb threat and his client was only guilty of saying stupid things.

Gregersen later indicated in court records that he planned to argue Pierce was entrapped by the FBI, but he abandoned that line of argument when Pierce took the plea deal a few days later.

Gregersen did not return messages seeking comment on Friday.

Pierce will have a sentencing hearing Oct. 27. The plea deal also calls for him to have three years of supervised release with mental health treatment and pay $4,000 in restitution.

Pierce was charged with failing to register as a gun dealer, illegal possession of a machine gun and erasing the gun's serial number. He pleaded guilty Aug. 18 to illegal possession of a machine gun.

The Patriot Act widened law-enforcement powers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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