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NY Man Allegedly Plotted Election Day Bombing In D.C. To Promote 'Sortition'

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The Justice Department says investigators have thwarted a Rockland County man's plan to blow himself up on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on election day, using a homemade explosive intended to unleash "untold destruction."

Paul M. Rosenfeld, a 56-year-old resident of Tappan, New York, has been arrested and charged with one count of unlawfully manufacturing a destructive device and one count of interstate transportation and receipt of an explosive, according to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman, whose Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit will prosecute the case.

According to Berman, "Rosenfeld concocted a twisted plan to draw attention to his political ideology": Sortition, or, the "use of random selection to populate assemblies or fill political positions," per the Sortition Foundation. Adherents believe that this happenstance system would translate to a more representative and, ultimately, fair democracy. Rosenfeld allegedly planned to detonate a roughly 200-lb explosive device he'd built in his basement on November 6th during the midterm elections.

Prosecutors say Rosenfeld bought bulk quantities of black powder online, bringing it from New Jersey to Tappan. He used that to build his bomb, adding "certain components in the explosive device to ensure that he was killed in the blast," according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Rosenfeld reportedly outlined his plot in text messages and letters he sent to another party in Pennsylvania. According to NBC, that party was a reporter, who subsequently contacted the authorities. On October 9th, the FBI's New York office extracted the explosive from Rosenfeld's house, after law enforcement officers pulled him over while he was driving. When questioned, Rosenfeld allegedly admitted to buying and transporting explosives. He also added that he had built smaller, test versions of the explosive he planned to set off in November, and that his ultimate aim was to call attention to sortition, prosecutors allege.

"Had he been successful, Rosenfeld's alleged plot could have claimed the lives of innocent bystanders and caused untold destruction," the FBI's Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York office, William F. Sweeney Jr., said in a statement.

The device has reportedly been transferred to a "safe location," and Rosenfeld faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on both charges.