An Illinois man who livestreamed his riot trip to Minneapolis last summer, including filming part of his role in burning down a Sprint store, pleaded guilty in Minnesota U.S. District Court on Wednesday to one count of aiding and abetting arson.
Matthew Rupert, of Galesburg, Ill., was the first person to be charged with federal crimes for participating in the looting and arson that took place after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. He originally was charged with counts of civil disorder and riot as well, but the U.S. Attorney's Office dropped all but the arson charge as part of a plea agreement.
Rupert faces a mandatory-minimum sentence of five years in prison, and prosecutors are asking U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel for seven years and six months to nine years and six months. He also could be fined up to $250,000 and ordered to pay restitution. Sentencing has not been scheduled yet. Rupert has been held in the Sherburne County jail for 10 months.
In the plea hearing, Rupert admitted to traveling to Minneapolis on May 28, after seeing news of riots breaking out. He posted a Facebook message before he left that invited "goons" to join him, saying he'd rented hotel rooms and planned to "take hella good videos." At least one person, a 17-year-old, took him up on the offer.
He livestreamed several videos to his Facebook account, "El Rico Rupert," which depicted him damaging property, looting businesses and encouraging others to attack law enforcement, according to the plea agreement.
At one point, he and others broke into a boarded-up Sprint store on Nicollet Avenue. Rupert piled boxes on the floor, sprayed them with lighter fluid and encouraged his 17-year-old companion to set them on fire, igniting a blaze in the store.
The video, which was still posted on Rupert's public Facebook page at the time of his arrest, captures him saying, "I lit it on fire" and "We came here to riot."
Rupert then drove to Chicago, where he filmed himself breaking into a darkened cafe. He was arrested by Chicago police.
Rupert didn't speak much in the hearing, other than to agree with statements placed on the record. Brasel asked Rupert to put in his own words why he's guilty.
"I told somebody to light something on fire," Rupert said.
"It sounds like you videoed yourself looting and damaging Minneapolis businesses," Brasel said.
"Yes, your honor," Rupert said.
"And continued to video yourself while you and others set the store on fire?"
"Yes, your honor."
Rupert's political motivations, if any, were not stated in the court proceeding or charges. He is one of dozens charged with federal crimes stemming from the riots after Floyd's death.
Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036