Some days are just emblazoned in our memories. One of those days for me is May 8th, 2022, Mother’s Day. I was at church early that morning to help get ready for a ladies’ brunch happening at 9 a.m. At 7:45 or so, I received a call from one of our team members telling me I needed to immediately call the folks who manage our office building because we had had a “break-in.” I quickly dialed building management and was told we’d had more than a break-in. I was told we had been firebombed and had a fire started in our office and that graffiti had been written on two of the building’s outside walls near our office. I immediately left church with another one of our team members, with a quick stop by my home, only to find that the Watertown police were looking for me because the Madison police hadn’t been able to locate me. After verifying who I was, I was told to get to Madison as soon as possible and to call the Madison Police Department en route. I did so. Interestingly, the Madison PD wouldn’t tell me what the graffiti said.
As we drove by the front of the building at the office, I saw the message on one wall: “If abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either.” On another wall was what we later learned were anarchist and anti-law enforcement symbols. The reason we were attacked was unmistakable.
We entered the building to an acrid odor and found it came from our office, all the way at the end of the hall—at least 150 feet away. Walking into the office, we found the receptionist area a mess from firefighters who had arrived to put out the fire. Then I saw that my personal office had been the point of the attack. Windows broken, glass everywhere, furniture destroyed, books burned, a segment of wall burned away, disarray everywhere—and horrible air, even to the point of making it hard to breathe. Later I’d learn that the air in my office was not just bad, it was truly toxic and no one should have been in there! Meanwhile, I’d given countless interviews standing or sitting in the middle of the destruction for at least two days!
Needless to say, such a day is permanently embedded in my memory. That day, FBI agents were in the office, along with an ATF agent, and at least two Madison Police Department officers—one a detective. When they left with physical evidence late that afternoon, they told me work on the case would begin immediately, but it might take several months for anything of significance to happen. That proved to be true. It wasn’t until March of this year, that I was told that an arrest in our case was imminent—thanks to graffiti that had been written on a sidewalk near the state capitol—in a handwriting style that matched the one used on our walls. After several weeks of work, law enforcement recovered a half-eaten burrito left by the suspect and extracted DNA from the refuse. That DNA matched one set of DNA taken from the physical evidence gathered at my office. Shortly thereafter, police arrested Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury in Boston getting ready to board a plane to Guatemala, using a one-way ticket.
Seriously! This is the kind of thing you see in an NCIS episode! Mr. Roychowdhury was charged with attempting to cause damage through the use of fire or an explosive device and was eventually extradited to Wisconsin where he was put first in jail and then in a federal prison.
Fast-forward to the Monday before Thanksgiving. The US Attorney’s office handling this case filed a signed Plea Agreement with the Western District Wisconsin Federal Court. Mr. Roychowdhury was scheduled to actually plead guilty before federal Judge William Conley on Friday, December 1, 2023, at 1 p.m. Shortly before 1 p.m., I entered the courtroom and sat down. Shortly after, a sergeant-at-arms told me I’d probably be more comfortable moving to the other side of the gallery. I had sat directly behind where Mr. Roychowdhury would be sitting with his attorneys. I obliged and sat behind the detective handling our case and an FBI agent who had made the arrest. Eventually, the other side filled up with the accused’s friends and family members (interestingly, all wearing masks).
Eventually, Mr. Roychowdhury was escorted in wearing an orange jumpsuit, but in no way restrained. I watched him for a long time. His demeanor throughout the process of the judge asking him a whole series of questions was calm, self-assured, and perhaps a bit smug and arrogant. I don’t know if he recognized me or not, although he looked my way several times. I couldn’t help but wonder how he got caught up in all this radicalization and violence, and I pondered how his life will be different because of this crime.
This 29-year-old from India (now apparently a US citizen) did plead guilty and took responsibility for the crime. The judge told him very clearly the law requires a minimum of five years of incarceration with a maximum of 20—and that the judge would ultimately determine his sentence and hand it down on February 14th, 2024. He will get some consideration for accepting responsibility, but the judge cannot give him less than five years. He could also be fined and required to pay restitution for damages. As I’ve said many times, we are not looking for revenge or retribution, just justice under the law.
This arrest and guilty plea is, as far as we know, the first in the nation as it relates to the series of attacks targeting pro-life organizations and churches that happened after the leaked draft of the Dobbs U.S. Supreme Court decision suggested that Roe v. Wade would soon be overturned.
It’s taken longer than anyone thought it would to reach this point in the firebombing of our office, but I believe justice is being served at this point, and I trust this will be encouraging to other pro-life organizations and churches that have endured similar attacks.
You, our friends, have prayed for us, financially supported us, and encouraged us as we have walked this very different path. Thank you! The case is still open because we believe there are more suspects yet to be identified and apprehended. So this attack remains very much on our minds as we continue to work with law enforcement. Your prayers and ongoing support are such a blessing and so necessary as we continue, in partnership with you, to show up, stand up, and speak up for LIFE in Wisconsin. We will keep you posted as this story continues!