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East Longmeadow man convicted in attempted bombing of Jewish assisted living facility

A 37-year-old man was convicted on explosives charges in federal court in Boston Tuesday for the attempted bombing of a Jewish-sponsored assisted living facility in Longmeadow last year, according to the US attorney’s office for Massachusetts.

John Rathbun of East Longmeadow was accused of placing a lit firebomb at the entrance of Jewish Geriatric Services Lifecare Inc. on April 2, 2020, the US attorney’s office said in a statement.

After a week-long trial, he was convicted of attempting to transport or receive explosive devices in interstate or foreign commerce with the knowledge or intent that the device will be used to kill, injure, or intimidate any individual or unlawfully to damage or destroy any building, vehicle or other real or personal property and of attempting to maliciously damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property used in interstate or foreign commerce, prosecutors said.

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Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 12.

Acting US Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell called the attempted bombing “a cruel and senseless crime.”

“Thanks to the jury’s verdict and the good work of prosecutors and investigators, the man who targeted vulnerable members of our community will not be a threat to public safety anytime soon,” Mendell said.

Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, said Rathbun posed a “very real” danger to others.

“By trying to ignite a firebomb outside a Jewish assisted living facility, he put the lives of innocent people at risk,” Bonavolonta said in the statement.

Rathbun’s lawyer, Timothy G. Watkins, said he would appeal the conviction and that prosecutors had not demonstrated that his client had a motive for the attempted bombing. Watkins said Rathbun has no ill will toward Jewish people.

“As the government acknowledged, both before trial and during its presentation to the jury, there was no evidence that Mr. Rathbun had, or has ever had, religious or racial animus toward any person or group,” Watkins said in an e-mail Wednesday evening. “Mr. Rathbun flatly rejects any suggestion that he harbors any such bias.”

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Rathbun was convicted in November of making false statements to a federal agent, but the federal jury in that trial deadlocked on the arson counts, necessitating a second trial, according to the statement.

His DNA was found on a 5 gallon fuel canister filled with gasoline and on a Christian religious pamphlet used as the wick for the makeshift explosive, which was found outside Jewish Geriatric Services Lifecare in April last year, prosecutors said.

Rathbun’s lawyers previously asserted in court filings that he was in various other locations when someone left the makeshift incendiary device on the facility’s grounds on April 2.

About two weeks later, Rathbun falsely told a federal agent he was home when the device was planted, was unfamiliar with the location, and had never seen the fuel canister before, according to the statement.

For the charge of attempting the interstate transportation of explosives, he faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000, according to prosecutors. For the charge of attempting to maliciously destroy property, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.

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For the earlier conviction of making a false statement, he faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, according to the statement.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.