Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury has decided to plead guilty in a case that should be getting far more attention than it is.
Remember the firebombing of a prominent anti-abortion group’s office in Madison last year?
Roychowdhury was the guy behind it. He’s now facing a potential 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The target, Wisconsin Family Action, was under siege in the spring of 2022, with the Madison Fire and Police departments responding to reports of flames engulfing their office.
Roychowdhury, 30, was indicted by a grand jury in April and originally pleaded not guilty. Then, he attempted an audacious legal gambit by arguing that the federal arson statute he was charged under is unconstitutional.
Predictably, his motion was denied.
Now, in this proposed plea agreement, it’s suggested that Roychowdhury’s sentence could be reduced because he’s ‘accepting responsibility.’ But let’s not forget the court isn’t obligated to follow this recommendation.
Federal prosecutors have accused Roychowdhury of trying to ‘terrorize’ and ‘intimidate’, not just vandalize. Far from a mere act of vandalism, it was a deliberate and calculated attempt to instill fear.
The Madison offices of Wisconsin Family Action were targeted during a particularly tumultuous time – right when there was a national uproar over the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade.
And the message left at the scene? ‘If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either’, scrawled in cursive on the building’s wall, alongside the anarchy symbol and an anti-police slogan.
The investigators used sophisticated methods, including DNA evidence and social media analysis, to track down Roychowdhury almost a year after the incident.
One of the key pieces of evidence was a half-eaten burrito discarded in a garbage can.
Under the plea agreement, Roychowdhury has to admit that the facts gathered by federal prosecutors could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a trial. That’s a significant concession. It highlights the overwhelming evidence against him.
A plea hearing is scheduled for December 1st.