Man with chemical array in apartment pleads no contest to two felonies
A former Madison man whose Far West Side apartment was found last year to contain an array of chemicals and some improvised explosives pleaded no contest Friday to second-degree reckless endangerment and explosives possession charges.
Brian N. Campbell, 31, who now lives in Carol Stream, Illinois, faces up to 10 years of combined prison and extended supervision on the reckless endangerment charge and up to six years on the explosives charge when he is sentenced on Feb. 22 by Circuit Judge Susan Crawford.
Under a plea agreement, prosecutors can seek up to three years in prison for Campbell, and Campbell’s lawyers, Sarah Schmeiser and Tracey Wood, can seek any sentence.
A misdemeanor bail jumping charge was dismissed under the agreement.
The apartment building where Campbell lived at 7410 Timber Lake Trail was evacuated on Feb. 20 after a building manager who had entered Campbell’s apartment in response to complaints about chemical odors called authorities.
Investigators found chemicals being heated, and items that were consistent with the intent to make homemade explosives, including chemical liquids and powders and short sections of steel pipe with threaded end caps, according to a criminal complaint.
Residents were kept out of the building for about a week while the apartment and storage areas belonging to Campbell were cleaned up.
Campbell has not said why he began experimenting with chemicals and explosives, but according to documents filed in court last year, police believe it stemmed from a “life-altering” misdemeanor battery arrest in 2016 that may have negatively affected him.
Schmeiser disputed that at the time.
Campbell was placed in the Dane County District Attorney’s Deferred Prosecution Program after pleading guilty to battery for choking a fellow UW Hoofers sailor in September 2016. But he was chastised after he was ordered to write an essay about the positives and negatives of his experience and responded to the assignment in a way that program officials found to be flip.
The same search warrant states that Campbell told police he wasn’t making explosives or altering fireworks in his apartment but said there was “a thrill” to his experiments.
Campbell was formally kicked out of the deferred prosecution program in April and in July was sentenced to 45 days in jail for the misdemeanor battery.
Campbell remains free after posting $15,000 bail in August.
In October, the owners of the building where Campbell lived sued him for $47,444, for damage to his apartment, cleanup costs and rent that Campbell owed on his lease. That case is pending.