Paul Rosenfeld, 56, admitted to authorities that he purchased approximately eight pounds of black powder in New Jersey and had it transported to his home in Tappan, N.Y., according to report by NBC News. He also reportedly admitted that he planned to put additional components in the device to ensure that he would be killed in the explosion.
According to an affidavit, the motivation behind Rosenfeld’s plan was to call attention to his political beliefs — namely his support for the ancient practice of “sortition.”
Sortition, as defined by Britannica, is a system of electing government officials at random. The practice was used by some ancient Greek city-states in which all lawmakers were chosen by lot. Essentially, sortition eliminated the need for elections.
Rosenfeld’s plan was exposed after he reportedly sent letters and text messages to a reporter in Pennsylvania in August and September describing how he planned to blow himself up on Election Day, according to court papers filed.
The reporter alerted authorities of Rosenfeld’s plot, and on Tuesday, police arrested Rosenfeld, NBC reported.
The Westchester Journal News reported that law enforcement officials raided Rosenfeld’s home on Tuesday and discovered what appeared to be a bomb that weighed about 200 pounds. The bomb reportedly only had eight pounds of explosive black powder in it with plywood crating and other components accounting for the extra weight.
Agents also found a fusing system that could trigger an explosive as well as empty canisters that apparently housed the powder. The FBI reportedly removed the explosive from the home and transported it to a safe location in Rockland County.
The Journal News reported that the raid unfolded like a scene in a movie with swarms of police cars, most of which were unmarked, surrounding Rosenfeld’s home in what was otherwise a quiet neighborhood.
A police cruiser that was parked at the only entrance to the dead-end street, slowed traffic. A helicopter buzzed overhead and generated interest, while reporters and others were kept 200 yards from the scene.
Prosecutors said Rosenfeld also admitted to building smaller bombs as well as conducting test detonations, the Journal News reported.
NBC reported that authorities believed that Rosenfeld acted alone.
Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe agreed with Sweeney, adding that the potential to cause extensive death and destruction was very real.
Zugibe also said that the cooperation among local, state and federal law enforcement “once again helped to thwart a sinister plot to kill innocent Americans,” the Journal News reported. He also said that this incident was a reminder why we must “remain vigilant every day against those who wish to target our way of life.”
The National Mall is America’s most-visited national park with millions of people attending the area every year. Generally speaking, the term often refers to the area between the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol Building. The national park includes such iconic locations as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Smithsonian National Museums, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Gallery of Art and the National Air and Space Museum.
There is little doubt than any explosion in the area would cause irreparable harm and devastation.
Rosenfeld was charged with one count of unlawfully manufacturing a destructive device and one count of interstate transportation and receipt of an explosive, both of which carry maximum sentences of 10 years each in prison, the Journal News reported.
On Thursday, the Journal News also reported that Rosenfeld’s father, Peter Rosenfeld, of Vermont, said the family was relieved that investigators were able to thwart his son’s plan. Rosenfeld did not comment on his son’s political affiliations only to say that he supported the notion of sortition.
Incidentally, Rosenfeld’s name appears next to a lengthy essay titled “The Extinction of Politics” on EqualityByLot.com, where the essay discusses the futility of democratic politics among other things.
Rosenfeld appeared in New York federal court on Wednesday and is being held without bail. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.