First federal charges filed after a week of riots, looting; FBI soliciting tips

by WorldTribune Staff, June 3, 2020

An Illinois man who was reportedly caught on video saying “lets start a riot” has been charged in what appears to be the first federal criminal case related to the rioting that has devastated U.S. cities over the past week.

Matthew Lee Rupert, a 28-year-old Galesburg resident, has been charged in an eight-page criminal complaint in federal court in Minnesota with civil disorder, carrying on a riot and possession of unregistered destructive devices, the Chicago Sun Times reported on June 1. The complaint alleges Rupert participated in looting and rioting in Minneapolis before moving on to do more of the same in Chicago.

Matthew Lee Rupert

Chicago police arrested Rupert at 2:21 a.m. Sunday for violating the city’s emergency curfew, according to the complaint. When police searched his vehicle, they reported finding “several destructive devices.” He also had a hammer, a flashlight and cash.

Meanwhile, the FBI announced it is now publicly soliciting tips and digital media that depict “violent encounters surrounding the civil unrest that is happening throughout the country.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, warned the organizers and people taking part in riots across the country to expect a “knock on your door from the FBI.”

“The Department of Justice, your state bureaus of investigation, they’re going to figure out who is behind all of this,” Blackburn said on Fox News. “These people tried to go out the last couple of nights and burn down America, and I will tell you, law enforcement is going to figure out who organized it, who has put this money behind it to give these Antifa members what they need.”

Blackburn added: “If you’ve been on social media and you’ve been saying ‘I know friends that went to the protest, I know friends that went to the riots,’ you’re probably going to get a knock on your door from the FBI.”

The Chicago Sun Times noted that the allegations in the criminal complaint against Rupert largely revolve around a Facebook account for “El Ricco Rupert.” Rupert allegedly used that page to announce Thursday night that, “I’m going to Minneapolis tomorrow who coming only goons I’m renting hotel rooms.”

The next day, Rupert allegedly posted video to his Facebook account suggesting he was in Minneapolis. The video appeared to be filmed by Rupert while he was holding his cell phone, according to an FBI special agent’s affidavit. The video was marked “live” and lasted roughly two hours, records show. Authorities allege Rupert passed out explosives, encouraged others to throw explosives at police and appeared to light a building on fire.

At one point, Rupert allegedly said, “There are SWAT trucks up there. They got SWAT trucks up there . . . I’ve got some bombs if some of you all want to throw them back . . . bomb them back . . . here I got some more . . . light it and throw it.” As he made the comments, Rupert allegedly handed out an item with brown casing and a green wick to others.

Rupert allegedly went on to break into a boarded-up liquor store, claimed to set a fire to a Sprint store and then took videos of himself taking items from an Office Depot.

The next day, Rupert allegedly suggested on Facebook he might head next to Chicago and he allegedly posted multiple videos early Sunday indicating he had arrived. In one video, Rupert allegedly said he was at “South Plymouth and Ida B. Wells” waiting for his brother.

Rupert is allegedly heard on the video saying something to the effect of “let’s start a riot” and “I’m going to start doing some damage.”

On Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted that the administration would designate Antifa, the far-left anarchist movement, as a “domestic terrorist organization.”

Attorney General William Barr issued a statement Sunday on “riots and domestic terrorism.” In it, he states, “The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.”

The terror designation “will certainly help prioritize attention and federal resources on Antifa and encourage better coordination among law enforcement authorities,” Lora Ries and Cully Stimson wrote in a June 2 analysis for The Daily Signal. “This is a good start, but there is more that can and should be done at the state and local level.”

The analysis goes on to say:

First, states and localities have the primary responsibility to investigate, arrest, and prosecute people who violate state law.

Many of these crimes have been committed in full view of the media. Many of these crimes are not whodunits. The perpetrators are proudly flouting the law, on camera. To the extent possible, local prosecutors and police can and should investigate these crimes, arrest the violators, and prosecute them.

The federal government can, and likely is already, play a role, given the scale and scope of the riots and violence, especially considering that it appears that some of this is coordinated and funded.

Barr has directed the network of 56 regional Joint Terrorism Task Forces to identify criminal organizers and instigators, and to coordinate federal resources with their state and local partners. That in and of itself is a big deal.

Barr also stated that the violent radical agitators will be apprehended and charged for their violations of federal law.

No doubt, the FBI will use many of the same investigative tools it used to investigate and solve the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. That too was a resource-intensive effort, but resulted in the perpetrator being brought to justice.

One law that several violent rioters may be charged with is a violation of Title 18, Section 2101 of the U.S. Criminal Code, which criminalizes interstate travel or use of interstate commerce, including mail, telephone, radio, or television, with intent to: incite a riot; organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry on a riot; commit any act of violence in furtherance of a riot; or aid or abet any person in inciting or participating in or carrying on a riot or committing any act of violence in furtherance of a riot.

This crime is punishable by fine, up to five years’ imprisonment, or both. There are, no doubt, other federal crimes that may have been violated, depending on the particular facts and circumstances involved.

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