April 18, 2020 — Boston
American Jewish Committee (AJC) praised the U.S. Attorney’s Office for successfully appealing a judge’s decision to allow a man accused of plotting a violent attack on a Jewish assisted-living facility to stay at home until his trial.
Federal judge Mark G. Mastroianni’s order that John Michael Rathbun be detained reversed the earlier decision by judge Katherine A. Robertson to release him to home confinement in East Longmeadow, Mass., over the objections of prosecutors.
“Expeditious action by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling and his colleagues corrected one judge’s mistake and provided some assurance of security for the Longmeadow Jewish community,” said Robert Leikind, Director of AJC New England.
Rathbun has been charged with two counts of attempted arson after he allegedly tried to ignite a five-gallon plastic gas canister outside Ruth’s House, an assisted-living center in Longmeadow, on April 2.
Following Rathbun’s release on Wednesday, AJC New England sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s office, expressing dismay over the decision, and asking that “your office move expeditiously to appeal this action.”
“In the current climate Jewish people face real threats from people who mean them harm. Releasing someone who is alleged to have participated in a crime that could have resulted in more loss of life is deeply concerning,” wrote AJC New England President James Kaufman and Director Robert Leikind. “The fact that Rathbun has been released to a home very near the assisted living facility where the attempted attack took place, a community that also includes three synagogues, only amplifies the depth of our concern. The decision to release Rathbun to home confinement appears to give no weight to these well-founded fears.”
Recent posts on social media platforms operated by an unnamed white supremacist group had called for a mass killing of “that jew nursing home in longmeadow, Massachusetts,” and established April 3 as “Jew killing day.” The FBI is investigating any connections between Rathbun and the hate group.