NewsState

Actions

Man pleads guilty to firebombing Wisconsin anti-abortion group office in 2022

Posted at 9:28 AM, Nov 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-22 10:28:54-05

MADISON (AP) — A man accused of firebombing an anti-abortion office in Wisconsin last year has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of damaging property with explosives.

Online court records show Hridindu Roychowdhury, of Madison, entered the plea Monday in the Western District of Wisconsin. He will face up to 20 years in prison when he's sentenced on Dec. 1, but prosecutors have agreed to recommend the judge reduce his sentence because he has accepted responsibility for the crime.

According to court documents, someone broke a window at the Madison office of Wisconsin Family Action on May 8, 2022, six days after news outlets reported that the U.S. Supreme Court was set to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The reports sparked abortion rights supporters to mount protests across the country. Two Catholic churches in Colorado were vandalized in the days leading up to the Madison firebombing. And someone threw Molotov cocktails into an anti-abortion organization’s office in a suburb of Salem, Oregon, several days later.

The U.S. Supreme Court did indeed overturn Roe v. Wade a little more than a month later, putting Wisconsin's 1849 ban on abortion back in play. A Dane County judge this past August ruled that the state's ban doesn't apply to medical abortions, prompting Planned Parenthood to resume offering abortions in the state weeks later.

Someone threw two Molotov cocktails through the broken window, setting a book case on fire, and spraypainted “If abortions aren't safe then you aren't either” on the office's outside wall.

Firefighters extinguished the fire. Investigators pulled Roychowdhury's DNA as well as two other people's DNA from the Molotov cocktails and the broken window. DNA that investigators pulled from a half-eaten burrito that Roychowdhury threw away matched one of the profiles. Court documents do not say whether investigators have used the two unknown DNA profiles to identify anyone.

Police arrested Roychowdhury at Boston International Airport in March 2023. He had a one-way ticket to Guatemala, according to prosecutors.

Roychowdhury's attorneys, Joseph Bugni and Alex Vlisides, didn't immediately respond to an email Tuesday seeking comment.