The independent news organization of Duke University

Peterson sentenced to 49 months for bombing attempt

Engineering sophomore Clayton Sumner Peterson was sentenced Dec. 29 to four years and a month in federal prison for his attempted bombing of the Allen Buliding last spring.

After spending more than three months at home under court detention, Peterson appeared in U.S. District Court in Greensboro just 16 days after celebrating his 20th birthday.

Peterson was arrested last May following the discovery of a defused pipe bomb in the Allen Building during finals week. On May 31, a Greensboro grand jury indicted him on three felony counts--one for possession of the pipe bomb, one for manufacture of the bomb and one for possession of six smaller explosive devices found at his father's Durham residence. At a hearing in September, he pleaded guilty to planting the pipe bomb.

In addition to the prison sentence, Federal District Judge William Osteen ordered Peterson to pay the University $1,712.55 for damage done to the Allen Building on the night of the break-in.

After his 49-month prison sentence, Peterson will be under supervised release for three years, during which time he must perform 100 hours of community service each year.

During the three-year probation, he is not allowed to consume alcohol or have any access to explosive devices. Peterson's record shows a history of alcohol abuse and use of pyrotechnics, said U.S. assistant district attorney Rick Glaser. Peterson's father has maintained since his son's arrest that the bomb was used to divert attention from the missing office equipment, which he claims Peterson planned to use to make a fake I.D. for buying alcohol.

Immediately after the six-hour sentencing, Peterson was taken into custody by U.S. marshals. He is currently being detained at Orange County jail in Hillsborough, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Jesse Anderson.

Osteen is still considering a request Peterson made soon after his sentencing that he be allowed to serve time in a boot camp rather than a prison, according to Osteen's office.

According to Glaser, however, Peterson would not qualify for boot camp until after he serves some time in prison.

Strict federal sentencing guidelines for possession of an unregistered destructive device bound Osteen to recommend a sentence ranging from 46 to 57 months, Glaser said.

Osteen's sentencing orders elicited favorable reactions from both Glaser and Peterson's family. Glaser, a Trinity '76 graduate, said he was satisfied with the decision, while Peterson's father was much more emphatic. "Judge Osteen was absolutely fair. We were very impressed," said Michael Peterson, a Trinity '65 graduate.

Osteen received several letters from Peterson's friends and relatives attesting to Peterson's character. "Goodness knows I know of nobody in this courtroom who possesses more potential than you," Osteen said before delivering his sentence, according to the Durham Herald-Sun. "One of the letters I got said [Peterson's] fate is in my hands. That is not true -- just as the fate of your life is not in your parent's hands. It's in your hands. In the end, I wish you well. You've got a job to do, and so do I."

Before hearing Osteen's sentence, Peterson had a chance to address the judge. According to some accounts of those present at the sentencing, Peterson stood up in tears and had difficulty talking. He apologized for the damage and distress he had caused at the University.

"I've spent the past eight months going over the seriousness of my act -- what could have happened, what did happen, all the fear I caused people at Duke," he said, according to the Durham Herald-Sun. "I realize how foolish I was not to realize what could have happened. I regret all my actions; I am remorseful. I apologize to everyone, to Duke, to [Osteen], to society, to my parents [and] my friends."

Peterson's academic status at the University is still unclear, said Paul Bumbalough, assistant dean of students and special adviser for judicial affairs.


Share and discuss “Peterson sentenced to 49 months for bombing attempt” on social media.