Feds want nearly 10 years for Galesburg man who joined Minneapolis rioting before heading to Chicago

Prosecutors said the severe sentence would send an important message “as the country grapples with this period of societal change.”

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Matthew Rupert

Galesburg police

Federal prosecutors in Minnesota are asking a judge to punish a man from downstate Galesburg with nearly a decade in prison for burning down a Sprint store amid last year’s rioting in Minneapolis before turning his sights on Chicago.

Matthew Lee Rupert, 29, “drove over 400 miles to exploit an aggrieved community for fun” and “packed a duffle bag full of artillery-shell fireworks, but apparently forgot his signs protesting the death of George Floyd,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing seeking the harsh sentence Thursday.

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The fireworks that prosecutors say Matthew Rupert brought with him to riot in Minneapolis.

U.S. District Court records

Rupert then moved on from Minneapolis to Chicago as rioting and looting began to break out here on May 30, 2020. He did so even though someone warned him on Facebook that in Chicago, “they just dont pull out guns they use them.” But Rupert was soon arrested after violating the curfew Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced in response to the unrest.

Jordan Kushner, Rupert’s defense attorney, told the Chicago Sun-Times by email he expected to file his own position paper on Rupert’s potential sentence by the end of the day Friday. Rupert’s sentencing is set for Aug. 10.

Meanwhile, the first federal court sentencing in Chicago to directly address the violence here took place last week, when U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman gave three years of probation to Jacob Fagundo for setting fire to a Chicago police vehicle.

Rupert pleaded guilty to arson in April, admitting he posted a roughly two-hour video to Facebook Live on May 29, 2020, in which he could be seen encouraging violence against law enforcement, damaging property, breaking into buildings and looting businesses in Minneapolis. His plea agreement says he can be heard on the video declaring, “We came to riot!”

Eventually, Rupert can also be seen asking for lighter fluid and entering a boarded-up Sprint store, according to the plea deal. It said he entered a back room of the store, knocked boxes into a pile on the ground and sprayed them with lighter fluid. A juvenile Rupert brought along with him from Galesburg then lit the pile on fire at Rupert’s direction, according to the document.

The resulting fire totaled the store, according to the feds. Liberty Mutual, which insured the property, has so far paid nearly $4 million to repair the building and replace lost rental income, and Sprint lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory, they said. The store is still closed.

Meanwhile, prosecutors say Rupert has a lengthy history getting into trouble and taunting law enforcement. Even though he has been locked up, they also said Rupert has been caught with alcohol, got in a fight and threatened inmates and correctional officers.

Finally, they said the severe sentence would also send an important message.

“While nobody hopes for widespread civil disorders in the future, the likelihood of such events remains a distinct possibility as the country grapples with this period of societal change,” they wrote.

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