BOISE - The man who sparked a panic last year in his Boise Bench neighborhood after police discovered his home was filled with explosives was readying for society to crumble, he told investigators.
Joshua James Finch, 33, was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison. He'll have to serve at least 13 before he is eligible for parole.
Finch said he believed an electromagnetic pulse would knock out all the electronics in the country, and society would plunge into anarchy.
He was arrested in November after alarming his then-fiance with his all-nighters locked in the shed and attempts to purchase body armor and guns over Craigslist. When she and her parents confronted him about his behavior, Finch snapped, slamming the woman's father into a wall and threatening to kill him if he went to police.
Finch was arrested two days later, and charged with felonies including injury to children and unlawful possession of destructive devices.
Police say Finch was making pipe bombs and had an AR-15 and more than 100 pounds of explosives in his Dorian Street home. The bomb components were hidden beneath a trap door in Finch's laundry room, in a crawlspace that snaked beneath his two young children's room.
"He was willing to put their lives at risk, as well as those in the community," Prosecutor Tamara Kelly said.
Neighbors for blocks around were evacuated after Finch's November arrest, and it took law enforcement two days to empty the house of its volatile contents. Members of the bomb squad had to strip off their protective gear in order to enter the crawlspace's small opening, Kelly said, not knowing if the space was booby-trapped or about to detonate.
Their fears were well-founded. Among the fuse, shrapnel and buckets of black powder, was what police described as a victim-activated device. It was designed so that when someone picked it up, a rolling ball inside dislodged a pin, detonating it.
The presence of a device that can harm indiscriminately puts the lie to Finch's assertion that he was just trying to protect his family as Armageddon drew near, Kelly said.
But defense attorney Ransom Bailey said his client was not plotting an attack.
"He's not a member of some fringe group, he hasn't espoused some hatred of the government, he isn't a member of a particular gang," Bailey said.
Finch's obsession with readying for a cataclysmic event was likely a product of his upbringing, Bailey said: the defendant's parents held similar beliefs about a looming end.
But despite a fractious childhood that included Finch becoming a ward of the state and landing in a Coeur d'Alene group home, he was working to rise above his start, Bailey said.
At the time of his arrest, Finch was working toward his Masters degree at Boise State and was an attentive and involved father to his children, including a son with pronounced special needs.
He was making something of his life, Bailey said. This is someone who is smart and capable.
But things went off the rails when Finch dropped a class, and the university warned him his student loans were coming due, Bailey said. The stress overwhelmed him, and he turned to alcohol and an inner fantasy world, the attorney said. Bailey says it was then Finch became fixated on the end of the world and building bombs he likely would have never used.
Finch, who accepted a plea deal in May, also denied he had havoc in mind when he filled his home with explosives.
"I know all this looks really bad," he said. "I wasn't trying to hurt anybody."
But Judge Thomas Neville rejected that, saying a person who stores explosives beneath a child's bedroom was not someone who cared about hurting others.
"You went well beyond preparing to protect your family," he said in handing down the sentence. "You were preparing for war."
He said he was particularly alarmed by Finch's threat to kill any police officers who came to arrest him if his fiance's parents turned him in.
"You were prepared to fight with anyone who came to the house," Neville said. "That goes well beyond any legitimate right for self-protection or protection of your family."