Wisconsin man sentenced to over 7 years in prison for firebombing pro-life organization — By: Catholic News Agency

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Apr 15, 2024 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

A man convicted of firebombing a pro-life organization’s office in Madison, Wisconsin, was sentenced to over seven years in federal prison on April 10.

The 29-year-old man, Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury, pleaded guilty to one charge of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive for firebombing the Wisconsin Family Action office. The bombing, which he carried out in May 2022, occurred early in the morning when the office was empty and there were no injuries.

Roychowdhury launched his attack just days after an unidentified person leaked a draft of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The firebombing was accompanied by a threat graffitied on the pro-life group’s exterior walls: “If abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either.”

“Roychowdhury’s arson was an act of domestic terrorism,” U.S. Attorney Timothy M. O’Shea for the Western District of Wisconsin said in a statement released by the Department of Justice

“Domestic terrorism is cowardly and profoundly undemocratic,” O’Shea added. “It is not speech; it is not an exchange of ideas; instead, it is an attempt to harm or frighten one’s fellow citizens, thus driving Americans apart and weakening the fabric of our democratic society. The U.S. Department of Justice, and this U.S. Attorney’s Office, with our local and federal law enforcement partners, will never flinch from holding domestic terrorists accountable.”

Christine File, the president of Wisconsin Family Action, was disappointed with the sentence. The organization had recommended that Roychowdhury receive 15 years in prison. The charges carried a minimum of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison.

“The court missed an opportunity to strengthen the protection of constitutional rights like free speech and free exercise, rights that have themselves been under assault in recent years,” File said in a statement. “The defendant’s act of domestic terrorism to threaten our people, our families and friends, our neighbors, and our greater pro-life community is unconscionable. Ultimately, the defendant — and others who attacked pro-life groups they disagree with — attacked our civil society and the constitutional rights foundational to it.”

In addition to his 90-month sentence, Roychowdhury received three years of supervised release and a $32,000 fine. 

“Given the severity of his crime and the charges he pled guilty to, the sentence lacks proportionality,” File said. “However, as we’ve said since the day of the attack, no act or threat of violence or terrorism will deter us from our mission — being a voice for the voiceless.”

Threats to pro-life organizations on the rise

Attacks on pro-life organizations, churches, and pro-life pregnancy centers have seen an uptick since the Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked, according to a CNA tracker. At least 115 organizations, including 38 churches, have been vandalized over the past two years with varying degrees of severity. 

Most of the acts of vandalism have gone unsolved, which has prompted criticism of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation from Catholic groups, pro-life organizations, and Republican lawmakers.

On April 9, CatholicVote sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland that criticized the lack of prosecutions and requested information on how the Justice Department intends to combat these attacks. 

“Catholic churches and individual Catholics have an absolute right to practice their faith and vote their consciences,” Brian Burch, the president of CatholicVote, said in the letter. 

“These attacks against Catholic churches standing for the right to life are textbook examples of voter intimidation and voter suppression,” Burch said. “You have sued multiple states which you allege are engaging in voter suppression … yet you have not devoted a single minute of federal time to addressing the intimidation and suppression of Catholic voters.” 

Garland has claimed that the Justice Department has dedicated full resources to prosecuting these incidents but that most of the actions occur at night, which makes them difficult to solve.

Alternatively, several pro-life activists have faced convictions for blocking access to abortion clinics under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. Some of the activists could face more than a decade in prison.

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