MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin man pleaded guilty Friday to firebombing the office of a prominent anti-abortion group last year.
Hridindu Roychowdhury, 29, admitted to throwing two Molotov cocktails through the window of Wisconsin Family Action's Madison office on May 8, 2022, less than a week after the leak of a draft opinion suggesting the U.S. Supreme Court's intention overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
One of the Molotov cocktails thrown into the office failed to ignite; the other set a bookcase on fire. Roychowdhury also admitted to spray-painting the message “If abortions aren't safe then you aren't either” on the outside of the building. No one was in the office at the time.
Investigators connected Roychowdhury to the firebombing in January, when police assigned to the state Capitol in Madison reviewed surveillance footage of a protest against police brutality. The video showed several people spray-painting graffiti on Capitol grounds that resembled the message left on the Wisconsin Family Action office. The footage also showed two people leaving the area in a pickup truck investigators tracked to Roychowdhury's home in Madison.
Police began following Roychowdhury and in March pulled his DNA from a half-eaten burrito he threw away at a park-and-ride lot. That DNA sample matched one taken at the scene of the firebombing. Police arrested Roychowdhury on March 28 at a Boston airport where he had booked a one-way ticket to Guatemala City, Guatemala, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Roychowdhury signed a plea deal with prosecutors last month agreeing to a federal charge of damaging property with explosives. U.S. District Judge William Conley approved the agreement in a hearing Friday.
Under the charge, Roychowdhury faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but prosecutors agreed to recommend that Judge Conley reduce the sentence because he has accepted responsibility for the crime. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Feb. 14.
Roychowdhury's attorneys did not immediately respond to an email sent Friday requesting comment.
“I am deeply grateful to our local and federal law enforcement partners for their dedication and persistence in solving this crime," U.S. Attorney Timothy O'Shea said in a statement. “Arson and other acts of domestic terrorism are crimes that will be punished and have no place in a healthy democracy.”
Harm Venhuizen is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.