MADISON – Yesterday, Federal Judge William Conley of the Western District of Wisconsin, sentenced Hridindu Roychowdhury to seven and half years in a federal prison. On December 1, 2023, the defendant pled guilty to federal charges in the May 8, 2022 firebombing attack on the Madison office of Wisconsin Family Action. Roychowdhury also graffitied a threatening message on the exterior of the building: “If abortions aren’t safe, then you aren’t either.”  The federal charges required a minimum of five years and a maximum of twenty years.

Wisconsin Family Action president emeritus Julaine Appling and president Christine File both submitted written Victim Impact Statements and were allowed time to speak during the sentencing hearing.  The following is WFA’s response to the judge’s decision.

Julaine Appling commented, “May 8, 2022, is forever emblazoned on my mind. It was a very visual reminder that people who disagree with us can and will use violence to try to silence us. We recommended the defendant receive 15 years imprisonment. We based that on justice—on the punishment fitting the crime, not on retribution or vengeance. This was a serious, premeditated crime that was the first of nearly 100 attacks on prolife organizations across the country.  In light of this, we are disappointed in the judge’s decision regarding a crime the judge called ‘terrorism’ multiple times. The US Attorney’s office had also recommended 12-15 years imprisonment. A civil society does not exist if violence is the default reaction to disagreeing with people.”

Christine File noted, “We are disappointed. The court missed an opportunity to strengthen the protection of constitutional rights like free speech and free exercise, rights that have themselves been under assault in recent years. The defendant’s act of domestic terrorism to threaten our people, our families and friends, our neighbors, and our greater pro-life community is unconscionable.  Ultimately, the defendant—and others who attacked pro-life groups they disagree with—attacked our civil society and the constitutional rights foundational to it.

“It is notable that nearly 60 people filled the courtroom to support this person who committed a violent, unprovoked, and hate-filled crime. Will the society-of-tomorrow support terrorism intended to silence people with whom we disagree? But perhaps most concerning, in the two years since the attack the defendant did not at any point express remorse to the people he targeted and harmed—until the judge asked him. We would’ve expected the court to have weighed this callousness towards us more significantly. Given the severity of his crime and the charges he pled guilty to, the sentence lacks proportionality.  However, as we’ve said since the day of the attack, no act or threat of violence or terrorism will deter us from our mission—being a voice for the voiceless.”

Wisconsin Family Action would like to thank the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin, the FBI and ATF agents, and the Madison Police Department detective assigned to this case for their professionalism and tireless work bringing this case to a resolution. That the judge did not take their sentencing recommendation nor weigh their arguments more heavily is regrettable. Civil discourse should never include violence, but our nation is at a boiling point, encouraged by a lack of law and order.

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