Trial date set for alleged attempted arson of MA Jewish nursing home

A Massachusetts judge has denied a motion to dismiss the indictment against a man charged…

Trial date set for alleged attempted arson of MA Jewish nursing home
A Massachusetts judge has denied a motion to dismiss the indictment against a man charged with attempted arson of a Jewish nursing home, according to local media outlet MassLive. Prosecutors recently found new evidence for the case that demands investigating, and a tentative trial date has been set for November. 
John Michael Rathbun, 36, has been held without right to bail since shortly after his arrest in April. In June he was indicted for two federal charges of transporting explosives with the intent to kill or injure and attempted vandalism of private property. 

The charges can yield up to 10 years in the federal penitentiary as well as a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.

Prosecutors at the time alleged that they found Rathburn’s DNA on the fuel canister he intended but failed to light in the driveway entrance to Ruth’s house, a Jewish assisted-living facility in East Longmeadow.

A neighbor of the facility spotted the gas canister and called both police and fire officials. They alleged that the homemade Molotov cocktail flamed out before it could do any damage. No one was injured as a result of the event. 

Law enforcement drew a correlation between the gas can with Rathbun’s DNA on it and a white supremacist online chat room, which had been operating on two social media platforms, which designated the day as “Jew Killing Day.”

They had made threats against “that jew nursing home in longmeadow massachusetts” along with another target, according to the US Attorney’s Office. 

However, attorneys on both sides of the case state that law enforcement officials couldn’t find any links between Rathbun and the platform or any other white supremacy groups. 

“The government has investigated every nook and cranny of Mr. Rathbun’s life and has failed” to unearth links, said Timothy Watkins, a court-appointed public defender for Rathbun, who had previously argued that Rathbun had an “ironclad alibi,” proving he could not have been at at the nursing home to place the cannister at the time, according to MassLive. 

Federal prosecutors have conceded in court records that the government has thus far found evidence of those relationships. They told US District Judge Mark Mastroianni, however, that the FBI recently discovered three additional cellphones that Rathbun may have used which were never turned over to the government as potential evidence, MassLive reported. 

Moreover, it was found that Rathbun had dozens of Facebook alias accounts, despite previously telling federal agents that he only used the internet to “job search, troll porn sites and using dating apps.”

A trial has been set for November. The trial date is tentative, however, as the newly-discovered cellphones still need to be explored. In addition, there is fear of spreading the coronavirus at the trial, as out-of-state attorneys, witnesses and local witnesses – some of whom are elderly – will be put at risk for contracting the virus.Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.