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Massachusetts man who allegedly tried to blow up Jewish senior assisted living home sees additional charges

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BOSTON – A federal grand jury has returned a superseding indictment against an East Longmeadow man who was previously charged with placing an incendiary device at the entrance of a Jewish-sponsored senior health care organization. The superseding indictment adds an additional charge of lying to federal agents.

John Rathbun, 36, has been charged in a superseding indictment with a third count of false statements to a federal agent. On June 23, 2020, Rathbun was previously indicted with one count of attempting to transport or receive explosive devices in interstate or foreign commerce with the knowledge or intent that the device will be used to kill, injure, or intimidate any individual or unlawfully to damage or destroy any building, vehicle, and another count of attempting to maliciously damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property used in interstate or foreign commerce.

It is alleged that on April 15, 2020, Rathbun falsely stated to a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he was not familiar with the location on Converse Street where the device was placed; he had not left his house in the past two weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic; and he only used the Internet to search for work, to use a dating application called Bumble and to view pornography.

“As alleged, John Rathbun placed a homemade incendiary device near the entrance of a Jewish assisted living facility, located within a short distance of three Jewish temples, a Jewish private school, and a Jewish Community Center,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “This case highlights the very real threat posed by racially motivated violent extremists and make no mistake, the FBI will use every investigative tool available, along with the expertise and skills of our partners on our Joint Terrorism Task Forces, to identify, assess and disrupt threats like this one to keep our communities safe.”

According to the criminal complaint, on April 2, 2020, police discovered a homemade incendiary device at the entrance of Ruth’s House, a Jewish-sponsored assisted living residential facility for seniors of all faiths, located on Converse Street in Longmeadow. The device was located within feet of a widely used pedestrian walkway and approximately 50 yards from the Ruth’s House facility. Ruth’s House is located within one square mile of several other Jewish facilities, including three Jewish temples, a Jewish private school and a Jewish Community Center.

It is alleged that the incendiary device consisted of a five-gallon plastic Scepter gas canister, filled with liquid believed to be flammable gasoline, with burnt paper (later identified as a Christian religious pamphlet) placed in the nozzle of the canister. A portion of the pamphlet was charred and appeared to have been lit on fire in an attempt to ignite the gas. Law enforcement observed what appeared to be blood stains on the canister handle and on the pamphlet. On or about April 9, 2020, it was determined that samples of the stains on the canister and the pamphlet were linked to Rathbun’s DNA profile.

In March 2020, a white supremacist organization that operated on two social media platforms was identified by law enforcement. On these platforms, users promoted mass killings in the United States and elsewhere directed against religious, racial and ethnic minorities; discussed plans to engage in these crimes themselves; discussed using various explosive and incendiary devices, including improvised devices commonly known as “Molotov cocktails”; and identified targets, such as mosques and synagogues.

On or about March 4, 2020, a user on the first social media platform specified two choices for mass killings, including “that jew nursing home in longmeadow massachusetts.” The organization’s form on the second platform included a calendar in which users could create events that listed the dates, times, and locations; invite other users to attend the event; and communicate concerning the event. The calendar listed the following entries: April 2, 2020 – “hating niggers day”; and April 3, 2020 – “jew killing day.” The calendar entry for “jew killing day” listed the event location as “Jew Nursery Home” without a specifying address. It is alleged that the user who identified the Jewish nursing home in Longmeadow, and the user who created the April 3 calendar entry, are likely the same individual.

The new false statement charge provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of attempting to transport or receive explosive devices in interstate or foreign commerce with the knowledge or intent that the device will be used to kill, injure, or intimidate any individual or unlawfully to damage or destroy any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of attempting to maliciously damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property used in interstate or foreign commerce provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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