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Illinois man gets nearly 9 years in prison for arson during riots in Minneapolis

He livestreamed himself lighting a Sprint store on fire.
Matthew Rupert

An Illinois man who traveled to the Twin Cities during the civil unrest following George Floyd's death has been sentenced to nearly nine years in prison. 

Matthew Lee Rupert, 29, of Galesburg, Illinois, pleaded guilty to one count of arson in April after he intentionally set fire to a Sprint store in Minneapolis on May 29, 2020. He was sentenced Tuesday to 105 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, the U.S. Attorney's Office says.

“Matthew Rupert chose to drive more than 400 miles from his home in Illinois to Minnesota to engage in violence and destruction, all while broadcasting it for the world to see. Peaceful protest was not on his agenda,” said Acting U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk in a statement. 

Rupert was charged June 1, 2020, after he shared on Facebook his plans to travel to Minneapolis. In a video he recorded of himself on May 29, 2020, he indicated he was in Minneapolis and came "to riot."

He's seen on the video encouraging violence against police, as well as actively damaging property, breaking into buildings and looting businesses.

The video shows Rupert asking for lighter fluid before breaking into a boarded-up Sprint store in Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis, the release says. Inside, he canvassed the store and made his way into a back room, where he told others that he'd found the safe. 

Rupert and others then knocked down boxes, sprayed the pile with lighter fluid and then a then-juvenile acting at Rupert's direction lit the pile on fire. He then fled the building, saying: "I lit it on fire." 

The store was damaged as a result of the fire. 

“Mr. Rupert made his way to Minneapolis for the express purpose of instigating lawless behavior on our local streets. He demonstrated no purpose other than endangering peaceful protests by actively encouraging violence against law enforcement and personally destroying community businesses," said Michael Paul, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis field office.

Rupert was the first person to be charged in connection to the riots following Floyd's death on May 25, 2020. 

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