A federal judge has released a Massachusetts man to home confinement after he was accused of trying to set fire to a Jewish-sponsored assisted living center, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
Judge Katherine Robertson released John Michael Rathbun, 36, shortly after he was charged with attempted arson on Wednesday, according to the report.
The judge's decision garnered a written objection from US Attorney Steven Breslow, who wrote that Robertson's decision to release Rathbun “appears to have been greatly influenced by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
Breslow added that while the pandemic has created “laudable” concerns, the reasoning is not a sound basis for releasing Rathbun, who presents both a flight risk and a risk to public safety.
According to the indictment, Rathbun tried to blow up the nursing home with a five-gallon gas tank.
He reportedly placed the gas tank at the entrance to the nursing home, which is not far from synagogues, a community center, and Jewish schools. According to the investigation, in early April police discovered the gas tank at the entrance to the nursing home, and next to it were gasoline and burnt paper, which turned out to be a Christian religious flyer.
It is suspected that the flyer was set on fire in an attempt to ignite the gasoline. In addition, police found blood stains on the container, enabling them to trace the accused in the act.
The attorney’s office said the center was being discussed on white supremacist online platforms before the gas can was found.