Linn County Metro

Ely man sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for drugs, firearms

Judge said he had 41 previous criminal convictions

Matthew Robbins
Matthew Robbins

CEDAR RAPIDS — An Ely man linked to a missing Marion man who is considered a homicide victim was sentenced Friday to 10 years in federal prison for firearms and drug charges.

Matthew Robbins, 42, pleaded guilty in August to one count of being a felon and unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm.

In a plea agreement, Robbins admitted that in 2014 he was using controlled substances, including methamphetamine, and had been convicted of eight felony offenses, including counts related to robbery, burglary, drug possession and drunken driving.

Over the past 26 years Robbins has had 41 criminal convictions and two as a juvenile, but 13 of the convictions didn’t meet the criteria to affect his prison term, U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade said during his sentencing.

Reade said Robbins had denied most of the information in the presentencing report, including owning the Iver Johnson 12-gauge shotgun, which is the crime in this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney C.J. Williams explained that Robbins admitted to having control over the firearm in 2014.

In previously filed court documents, Williams said the shotgun had been left at Robbins’s Ely home by another person. Robbins later had a friend store the shotgun at the friend’s home.

The first trial against Robbins ended in a hung jury, and the government decided to offer the plea agreement, Williams said.

Robbins declined to comment before Reade sentenced him.

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Reade said Robbins had a “very serious” alcohol problem and substance abuse issue with prescription medications, along with committing crimes of assault, domestic assault, burglaries and drunken driving.

Along with the 10-year sentence, Reade ordered Robbins to serve three years supervised release following his prison term and this sentence will run consecutively to his operating-while-intoxicated, third-offense conviction in Linn County District Court.

Robbins’s retrial didn’t happen after U.S. District Senior Judge Mark Bennett, who presided over the first trial in August, denied his motion, which asked the court to prevent the prosecution from naming James Booher, 51, a missing Marion man who police said is a homicide victim.

The prosecution’s witnesses testified in the first trial about Robbins allegedly buying meth from Booher and about Booher’s “activities” at the Ely farm where Robbins lived in 2014, according to the motion.

At that time, the defense was most concerned that a jury may have read or seen news reports about law enforcement searching for Booher, last seen May 31, 2014, and a forensic team excavating a burn pit at the Ely farm for possible human remains.

Williams said in a previous motion there wouldn’t be any mention at the retrial of connecting Robbins to Booher’s death, but there would be testimony from agents who recovered a shell casings from a .45 caliber brand of ammunition in the burn pile.

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