A man in Tappan, New York, was arrested and accused with planning to blow himself up at the National Mall on election day.
“As alleged, Paul M. Rosenfeld concocted a twisted plan to draw attention to his political ideology by killing himself on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., risking harm to many others in the process,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in a press release.
FBI agents raided Rosenfeld’s home on Oct. 9 where they uncovered “what appeared to be a functional explosive device” in the basement that weighed about 200 pounds. They moved the large bomb to a safe location in Rockland County, and later came back to the home to collect the fusing system.
Rosenfeld was charged with one count of unlawfully manufacturing a destructive device and one count of interstate transportation and receipt of an explosive, with each charge carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
“Rosenfeld’s alleged plan for an Election Day detonation cut against our democratic principles. Thanks to outstanding coordination between local and federal law enforcement, Rosenfeld’s alleged plot was thwarted and he is now in federal custody,” Berman added.
Rosenfeld had sent letters and text messages in August and September to a contact in Pennsylvania outlining his bomb plot in order to draw attention to his political belief in “sortition,” prosecutors said, court documents show (pdf).
Sortition is a political process where government officials are selected at random from a group of qualified candidates. It was prevalent in ancient Greece.
Authorities said Rosenfeld bought large quantities of explosive black powder via the Internet to be delivered to New Jersey. He then transported the powder from New Jersey to his New York home to build the bomb in his basement.
Rosenfeld confessed to the suicide bombing plot on Oct. 9 after FBI agents pulled him over while he was driving. FBI had received a tip off about Rosenfeld by a concerned citizen, CBS New York reported.
He told the FBI he used eight pounds of black powder in the bomb, and that he installed parts in the bomb to make sure he would be killed when he detonated it.
Rosenfeld said he had previously built smaller bombs and tested them. He also said had he acted alone, and was not in affiliation with any other group. Officials said they believe he intended no harm to others.
“Had he been successful, Rosenfeld’s alleged plot could have claimed the lives of innocent bystanders and caused untold destruction,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney.
“Fortunately, his plans were thwarted by the quick action of a concerned citizen and the diligent work of a host of our law enforcement partners and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.”
Rockland County district attorney Thomas Zugibe commented on the coordinated effort to arrest Rosenfeld.
“Cooperation among local, state, and federal law enforcement once again helped to thwart a sinister plot to kill innocent Americans,” Zugibe said, according to USA Today.
“This latest case reminds us that we must remain vigilant every day against those who wish to target our way of life.”
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