A 29-year-old Wisconsin man, Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury, has pleaded guilty to the May 2022 firebombing of a Madison office building. Roychowdhury, also of Madison, admitted to attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive.
Roychowdhury’s guilty plea relates to the firebombing of the Wisconsin Family Action office in Madison, according to CBS News.
The attack, which occurred on May 8, 2022, was one of many directed at pro-life organizations and churches following the publication of a leaked draft U.S. Supreme Court decision indicating that justices were poised to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, thereby allowing states to ban abortion if they so choose.
Evidence at the scene included a broken mason jar with a burned lid and screw top, a purple disposable lighter, and another mason jar containing a clear fluid smelling like an accelerant, the Department of Justice said in a statement. Additionally, graffiti was found on the building’s exterior.
The firebombing involved two Molotov cocktails thrown through a window, setting a bookcase on fire. The graffiti message, “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either,” was spray-painted on the office’s wall.
Firefighters extinguished the fire, and investigators found DNA from Roychowdhury and two other individuals at the scene. Roychowdhury's DNA was matched with that found on a half-eaten burrito he discarded. There is no indication that the other DNA profiles have led to further identifications.
In March, Roychowdhury became a suspect after local police observed him disposing of food in a public trash can, according to the statement, which says DNA from the food matched DNA evidence from the attack scene.
Later in March, Roychowdhury was arrested at Boston Logan International Airport as he was about to board a flight to Guatemala City.
He faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison, with sentencing scheduled for Feb. 14, 2024.
The investigation involved multiple agencies, including the Madison Police Department, the Wisconsin State Capitol Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Altman is prosecuting the case for the Western District of Wisconsin and Trial Attorney Justin Sher of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
The Roe v. Wade decision led to nationwide protests and other incidents of vandalism against pro-life organizations. The overturned decision later reinstated Wisconsin’s 1849 ban on abortion, although a Dane County judge ruled in August that the ban does not apply to medical abortions.
Roychowdhury’s plea agreement includes a recommendation for a reduced sentence due to his acceptance of responsibility for the crime. His sentencing was set for Friday when he pleaded guilty.