Paul M. Rosenfeld planned to detonate explosive device on the National Mall on Election Day to attract support for “Sortition”
Paul M. Rosenfeld has been charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in connection with manufacturing an explosive device in his Rockland County residence.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As alleged, Paul M. Rosenfeld concocted a twisted plan to draw attention to his political ideology by killing himself on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.—risking harm to many others in the process. Rosenfeld’s alleged plan for an Election Day detonation cut against our democratic principles. Thanks to outstanding coordination between local and federal law enforcement, Rosenfeld’s alleged plot was thwarted and he is now in federal custody.”
Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “As alleged in the complaint, Paul M. Rosenfeld planned to detonate a large explosive to kill himself and draw attention to his radical political beliefs. Had he been successful, Rosenfeld’s alleged plot could have claimed the lives of innocent bystanders and caused untold destruction. Fortunately, his plans were thwarted by the quick action of a concerned citizen and the diligent work of a host of our law enforcement partners and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. I’d like to extend particular thanks to our partners with the Orangetown Police Department, the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office, the Rockland County District Attorney, the New York State Police, the New York City Police Department, and the Stony Point Police Department for their respective roles in bring this investigation to a safe conclusion.”
According to officials, in August and September 2018, Rosenfeld sent letters and text messages to an individual in Pennsylvania (“Individual-1”). These letters and text messages stated that Rosenfeld planned to build an explosive device and detonate it on November 6, 2018, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Rosenfeld’s stated reason for these acts was to draw attention to his political belief in “sortition,” a political theory that advocates the random selection of government officials.
On October 9, 2018, law enforcement agent stopped a car driven by Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld agreed to answer questions and, in an interview with law enforcement, stated that he ordered large quantities of black powder—an explosive substance—over the Internet, which he transported from a location in New Jersey to his home in Tappan, New York (the “Residence”). Rosenfeld stated, among other things, that he used approximately eight pounds of black powder to construct a large explosive device in the basement of the Residence, and that he installed certain components in the explosive device to ensure that he was killed in the blast. Rosenfeld reported that he had previously constructed smaller explosive devices and had conducted test detonations. He also indicated that he planned to detonate the larger explosive device in a suicide mission on November 6, 2018, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in order to draw attention to sortition.
On October 9, 2018, law enforcement agents conducted a search of the Residence pursuant to a judicially authorized search warrant. In the basement, law enforcement agents found what appeared to be a functional explosive device weighing approximately 200 pounds (the “Explosive Device”). FBI bomb technicians removed the Explosive Device from the basement of the Residence and transported it to a safe location. Within the Residence, law enforcement agents also found, among other things, a fusing system for triggering explosive devices and what appeared to be empty canisters of black powder.
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Rosenfeld, 56, of Tappan, New York, has been charged with one count of unlawfully manufacturing a destructive device, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and one count of interstate transportation and receipt of an explosive, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
In governance, sortition is the selection of political officials as a random sample from a larger pool of candidates. Sortition ensured all competent and interested parties had an equal chance of holding public office.