PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Jacob Dean Robotin, 25, of Willow Grove, PA, was arrested and charged by Criminal Complaint on charges of possessing an unregistered destructive device, specifically, a homemade firebomb, also known as a “Molotov cocktail.”
The Complaint alleges that, on the evening of December 31, 2020, members of a large group of individuals wearing dark clothing vandalized the Federal Detention Center, the Robert C. Nix Federal Building, and other property in Center City Philadelphia by spray painting, setting off fireworks, and breaking windows. Shortly thereafter, at 600 Sansom Street, Philadelphia Police officers stopped three individuals, including the defendant. Robotin had a green, military-style backpack and was wearing dark clothing with spray paint on Robotin’s pants. After other police officers identified the three individuals as being among the larger group which had members participating in the vandalism of the Nix Building that evening, officers placed Robotin and the other two individuals under arrest.
According to the Complaint, officers found a glass bottle containing liquid and fuses, along with some tape inside Robotin’s backpack. Officers noticed that the glass bottle had a heavy odor of flammable liquid. In addition, the backpack contained additional fuses, lighters, camping heat sources, and fireworks, among other items. The Philadelphia Police Bomb Disposal Unit took custody of these items and later transferred custody of the items to the FBI. The Explosives Unit of FBI’s Laboratory later determined that the glass bottle contained gasoline, and together with the fuses, comprised a homemade firebomb, or Molotov cocktail.
Earlier today, Robotin was arrested by the FBI and had an initial appearance in federal court. The defendant has been released on conditions.
“Homemade Molotov cocktails can be incredibly dangerous,” Acting U.S. Attorney Williams said. “Here, the defendant is alleged to have carried all of the materials needed to endanger the lives of many people. Luckily, Philadelphia Police arrested Robotin before anyone was hurt. Let this case serve as a warning to others who might consider acting in a similar way – possession of a Molotov cocktail is not protected speech nor harmless hijinks; it is a serious federal crime.”
“Molotov Cocktails are incendiary weapons which pose a significant danger to the entire community,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “There is no telling what future acts of violence were prevented because of the swift action of law enforcement. ATF will continue to work alongside our local, state and federal partners to protect our communities against violent crime.”
“Robotin allegedly took to the streets of Center City on New Year’s Eve, armed with a dangerous incendiary device and components for more,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “People don’t casually stroll around with a Molotov cocktail in their bag, just for fun. It’s fortunate that Philadelphia police officers stopped and this defendant and found the firebomb before it did any damage or hurt someone.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.