Update June 16, 2021: John Rathbun, 37, of East Longmeadow, MA was convicted following a week-long trial of 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; more here.
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Update June 24, 2020: Rathbun now faces a criminal trial on two counts: transporting explosives with the intent to kill and attempted destruction of property; more here. If convicted, he faces up to to 10 years in prison, 3 of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 on each charge.
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An East Longmeadow man was arrested Wednesday afternoon for trying to set a Jewish nursing home on fire, an action that was being discussed in local white supremacist circles, federal officials said.
John Rathbun, 36, was charged on Wednesday with two counts of attempted arson in federal court in Springfield. Rathbun made an incendiary device with a five-gallon gas can and placed it at the entrance Ruth’s House on April 2. The device was found with burnt paper inside, which authorities believe was a Christian pamphlet.
“The charges in this case allege that the defendant tried to blow up a Jewish assisted living residence with a five gallon gas canister, at the same time that the facility was being discussed on white supremacist online platforms,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a news release.
The incendiary device also had blood on it, which allowed investigators to use DNA testing to match the canister to Rathbun, officials said.
Ruth’s House, which is near several Jewish temples and a Jewish school, was being discussed on white supremacist social media sites and was referred to as “that jew nursing home in longmeadow massachusetts,” according to Lelling. The social media sites also identified April 3 as “jew killing day,” authorities said.
If convicted, Rathbun could serve between five and 10 years in prison on the arson charges, according to prosecutors.