Federal Prosecutors Secure Guilty Plea From Portland Man Who Set Fire to County Property During Riot

The feds continue to search for Portland protesters who could be charged with federal crimes.

A man fuels a fire on the desk inside the Justice Department. (Alex Wittwer)

Edward Thomas Schinzing pleaded guilty Sept. 30 to a federal arson charge for setting fire to an office cubicle in the Multnomah County Justice Center on May 29.

As WW previously reported, the evidence against Schinzing was plentiful but the charges were unusual: Federal prosecutors argued in their July 28 indictment that they have jurisdiction over local property because the city of Portland received millions of dollars in federal assistance, namely COVID relief funding via the CARES Act.

"Based on that rationale, federal authority would exist anywhere in Portland," Jason Kafoury, a Portland civil rights lawyer, told WW in August regarding the Schinzing case. "It's also a scary precedent, because it's opening the door for federal authorities to arrest Portlanders anywhere, anytime."

The building prosecutors said Schinzing set fire to is owned jointly by the city and county. His guilty plea is significant because it's among the first cases successfully prosecuted by federal officials against Portland rioters who damaged local property through fires and vandalism.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Oct. 1 that the U.S. Attorney's Office for Oregon, headed by Billy Williams, has levied federal charges against 90 Portland protesters. Williams told OPB that FBI agents have "combed through hundreds of arrests by local police" in search of possible federal charges to levy against Portland protesters.

The federal charges also indicate an attempt to rebuff newly elected Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, who vowed to drop most nonviolent charges against Portland protesters.

Schinzing faces a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence for the arson, according to federal sentencing guidelines. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years.

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