No evidence, no problem. This was the investigative philosophy of special agent Ryan McGonigle of the Boston FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) when he accused John Rathbun of being a white supremacist domestic terrorist that attempted to blow up a Jewish assisted living facility with a homemade explosive.
Boston FBI's special agent in charge, Joseph Bonavolonta, hailed the arrest as proof that "racially motivated violent extremists" pose a "very real threat."
Rathbun was finally convicted for the crime after his first trial ended in a deadlocked jury.
A Misplaced Gas Canister
According to court documents obtained by National Justice, on April 2nd 2020 a 5 gallon Scepter gas canister with a piece of paper stuffed in the nozzle was found outside Ruth's House, a Jewish nursing home in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. The canister did not ignite and no property was damaged.
Blood found on the scene led federal investigators to John Rathbun, a 37-year-old heroin addict who lived with his parents nearby.
Because Ruth's House is a Jewish institution and the charred paper in the gas canister had Christian verses on it, the FBI spun up a fact-free narrative framing Rathbun as a white supremacist terrorist who planted a homemade bomb with the intention of killing Jews.
Rathbun was subsequently charged with transporting explosives across state lines and attempting to use the explosives to damage or destroy property.
Agent McGonigle's criminal complaint begins with a summary of an mysterious unnamed group of "white supremacists," referred to only as "Person 1" and "Person 2" and apparently not being charged, who were specifically targeting the Longview Jewish facility on social media.
Multiple pages of the affidavit are dedicated to describing the inner workings of this "white supremacist" group and their threats to the nursing home, yet in a baffling footnote, McGonigle states that Rathbun is neither of the individuals planning the attack and that there is no evidence he was involved in the group or any political activity whatsoever.
National Justice examined all the documents in the case and found that federal prosecutors never provided evidence tying the defendant to any "white supremacist" or anti-Jewish group or sentiments.
During interviews with investigators, Rathbun admitted that he regularly used drugs and accessed his computer to watch pornography, but categorically denied any association or interest in politics or animosity towards Jews. When informed that the blood found on the gas canister matched his DNA, Rathbun is described as becoming visibly distraught and questioning how that would even be possible.
A judge nevertheless agreed that "it is reasonable to infer" that Rathbun intended to terrorize Jews because the partially charred piece of paper in the gas canister characterized as a "wick" had a Bible verses on it.
No Legal Basis For Federal Charges
When the case went to trial for the first time last November, federal prosecutors heaved under narrative challenges. They failed to establish motive, intent or even a sound legal argument to justify the serious charges brought forward.
For example, Rathbun did not transport the gas canister across state lines -- a prerequisite for the federal charges in question. The charging FBI agent and prosecutor tried to get around this limitation by claiming that, while both Rathbun and Ruth's House were local to Massachusetts, the company that runs the home, Jewish Geriatric Services Lifecare, Inc, also owns real estate in Connecticut.
National Justice consulted a legal expert on this argument, to which they replied that it was an "outrageous" theory.
Jurors didn't buy it either and the case was declared a mistrial.
The Department of Justice could not let a potential "anti-Semitic terrorist" conviction go to waste and went to trial again last week, where the feds were finally able to eek out a conviction. Rathbun has been held in custody without bail throughout the entire kafkaesque affair and now awaits sentencing -- up to 10 years in prison -- scheduled for next fall.
In a self-important press release patting themselves on the back yesterday, the DoJ repeatedly mentioned the Jewish ownership of the property where the gas can was left, but not that "anti-Semitism" played any role in Rathbun's decision to leave it there.
Nevertheless, Rathbun's farcical conviction will still be tallied up as another instance of "white supremacist domestic terrorism" by the FBI.