Pipe bomb sale squishes pipe dreams of criminal who gets a semi-stiff sentence

Daylight! Hangover! #facepalm" by whatleydude is marked with CC BY 2.0 DEED.

Sometimes a story comes across my bow that just makes me shake my head. While I’ve heard all kinds of horror and humorous stories about people being catfished in life, in general, I always wonder how on Earth people get wrapped up with certain sting operations. Anyone really could easily fall subject to a confidence trick, but when you look at what some potential criminals fall for, it’s so sad it’s funny. Take for consideration a recent sentencing involving a man who sold a “destructive device” to an undercover law enforcement officer.


U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven has sentenced James John Hall (34, Zephyrhills) to two years and three months in federal prison for unlawfully making a firearm. Hall had pleaded guilty on April 3, 2023.

According to court documents, on November 1 and 2, 2022, Hall spoke by phone with a man to whom he had sold firearms in the past. During these conversations, Hall offered to sell the man a “pipe bomb” that he had built. Hall told the man that he had contemplated using the “pipe bomb” to target an individual with whom he was angry. The man who Hall was communicating with was a confidential informant (CI) with the Pasco Sherriff’s Office. The CI reached out to the Pasco Sheriff’s Office who then coordinated further with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Later in the evening on November 2, the CI and an undercover detective from the Pasco Sheriff’s Office met with Hall, where the undercover detective purchased the “pipe bomb.” When asked about future purchases, Hall indicated that he “had enough to build six more now.”

There’s just way too much to unpack in this little section of the ATF’s release. The individual, Hall, who pleaded guilty of the crime he was accused of, used to sell guns to someone that ended up to be a confidential informant. I want to know the particulars of all that, to be honest with everyone. And how come Hall isn’t being booked for any potential crimes involving the gun sales? Really, if that portion of the narrative was worth mentioning, then there should be something to it, otherwise that detail really is a non-sequitur.


The crux of the ATF’s case here was that Hall sold this pipe bomb to an undercover sheriff. Further, Hall boasted he had enough material to assemble six more devices.

It’s been a couple of decades since I’ve thumbed through the Anarchist Cookbook, but the last time I checked, the construction of a pipe bomb is not very elaborate. Unless something has changed in the technology of stuffing an explosive/rapid burning compound into a closed container since the time that Bill Clinton was in office, then I’m not really seeing why Hall would think that someone seeking to buy a pipe bomb is legitimate. How did that conversation go? Seriously.

Let’s chalk this one up to gross stupidity. The law enforcement officers involved in this sting were practically “blast fishing” themselves when they scored this big bust. No, we don’t want people running around talking about, or in reality following through with “using the ‘pipe bomb’ to target an individual with whom” they’re angry with. So, yeah, taking this guy in for building a bomb makes sense. 

I just keep reverting back to who sells pipe bombs? Who is so obtuse to think that their crafty ways are needed in order to make the most primitive destructive device ever known to exist. I’m not going to give a detailed roadmap on how to build a bomb, but suffice it to say a pipe bomb can be constructed using a box of kitchen matches and supplies ready to go at nearly every hardware store in the United States.


I guess, er, congratulations to the ATF and that Sheriff’s department for making this arrest and securing a two year sentence for this individual. We don’t need or want dangerous people doing this stuff, for sure. But c’mon, how can you be that obtuse? If you think there’s a big market for pipe bombs out there, I got a guy that’ll sell you a leprechaun flute that’s been in his family for generations.

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