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Suspect in fire outside of US Sen. Bernie Sanders' Vermont office to remain detained, judge says

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Suspect in fire outside of US Sen. Bernie Sanders' Vermont office to remain detained, judge says
News

News

Suspect in fire outside of US Sen. Bernie Sanders' Vermont office to remain detained, judge says

2024-04-19 07:39 Last Updated At:08:00

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The man accused of starting a fire outside independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Vermont office earlier this month will remain detained pending further legal proceedings, a federal judge ordered Thursday.

Shant Michael Soghomonian was indicted by a grand jury on a charge of maliciously damaging or attempting to damage and destroy by fire a building used in interstate commerce, according to the indictment filed with the court. Soghomonian, 35, has not yet been arraigned.

Surveillance video shows the man throwing a liquid April 5 at the bottom of a door opening into Sanders’ third-floor office in Burlington and setting it on fire with a lighter, according to an affidavit filed by a special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The motive remains unclear, and Sanders was not in the office at the time.

Seven employees working in the office were able to get out unharmed. The building’s interior suffered damage from the fire and water sprinklers.

Soghomonian, who was previously from Northridge, California, had been staying at a South Burlington hotel for nearly two months and was spotted outside Sanders’ office the day before and the day of the fire, according to the special agent’s report.

Prosecutors argued that Soghomonian is a danger to the community and a flight risk and should remain detained. A phone message was left with his public defender and was not immediately returned.

FILE - Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a news conference on Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's subpoenas of pharmaceutical company representatives to discuss drug prices Jan. 25, 2024, at the Capitol in Washington. A federal judge ruled Thursday, April 18, 2024, that a man accused of starting a fire outside Sanders’ Vermont office will remain in custody pending further legal proceedings. Sanders was not in the office at the time of the fire on April 5, 2024, and seven employees working there were able to get out unharmed. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

FILE - Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a news conference on Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's subpoenas of pharmaceutical company representatives to discuss drug prices Jan. 25, 2024, at the Capitol in Washington. A federal judge ruled Thursday, April 18, 2024, that a man accused of starting a fire outside Sanders’ Vermont office will remain in custody pending further legal proceedings. Sanders was not in the office at the time of the fire on April 5, 2024, and seven employees working there were able to get out unharmed. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rep. Thomas Massie’s role in the failed bid to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson didn’t harm his standing with Republican voters in his Kentucky district, where he easily won his primary election on Tuesday in the conservative stronghold.

Massie far outdistanced challengers Eric Deters and Michael McGinnis to maintain his hold on the seat representing the 4th District, which stretches across northern Kentucky. With no Democratic opponent in the fall, Massie’s primary victory cleared his way to claim another term in November.

The libertarian-leaning congressman said his victory amounted to a “referendum on thousands of independent votes I have cast in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Kentucky’s 4th District.”

“I want to thank the voters for trusting me to represent them again, and I look forward to continuing our fight for personal liberty, economic freedom, fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government,” Massie said in a statement.

Elsewhere, the dean of Kentucky’s congressional delegation, Republican Rep. Hal Rogers, easily defeated three challengers in the 5th District covering eastern and parts of southern Kentucky. No Democrat is running for the seat. Rogers is a senior member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which positions him to steer federal money back to his Appalachian district.

Rep. Morgan McGarvey, the state’s only Democratic congressman, coasted to victory over two opponents in the Louisville-area 3rd District. In November, he'll be challenged by Republican Mike Craven, who won his primary in the Democratic-leaning district.

Republican Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, will be opposed by Democrat Erin Marshall after both were unopposed in the 1st District primary. The Bluegrass State’s other congressmen — Republicans Brett Guthrie and Andy Barr — were unopposed in the primary.

Massie’s congressional race drew attention for his reputation of defying his party’s leaders — from then-President Donald Trump to the House speaker — without being punished by his constituents.

Massie aligned with fellow Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in the recent attempt to remove Johnson from his post as speaker. Massie co-sponsored Greene’s ouster resolution, which was overwhelmingly rejected by their colleagues.

Before the primary, Massie sounded unconcerned about any blowback from voters for trying to remove the speaker — nicknamed “MAGA Mike Johnson” by Trump. The former president remains enormously popular in the district.

“It’s a lot of inside baseball and ultimately, because he’s still the speaker, I think a lot of people don’t care,” Massie said last week.

Four years ago, Massie drew Trump’s wrath when the congressman singlehandedly caused a delay in passing a massive COVID-19 relief package. Trump called the Kentuckian a “third rate Grandstander.”

An unapologetic Massie said he tried to hold up what he considered to be an unconstitutional vote for a wasteful bill. Massie deflected Trump’s jabs by joking he was at least “second rate” as a grandstander.

Despite the presidential smackdown, Massie cruised to reelection that year. Two years later, Massie picked up the former president’s endorsement on his way to another reelection victory.

“They still appreciate somebody who will come up here and vote the way he believes is best, even if it’s at odds with Trump sometimes,” Massie said of his constituents. “So that’s sort of my brand at this point.”

In another twist, Massie supported Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ failed bid for the White House, again risking Trump’s anger. The ex-president didn’t give an endorsement in Massie’s primary race this year.

Massie's challengers included Deters, a former gubernatorial candidate who played up his steadfast support for Trump and portrayed Massie as a “goofball” lacking accomplishments in Congress.

Since joining Congress in late 2012, Massie has been known as an avid deficit hawk and staunch gun-rights supporter. In a recent post on the social platform X, Massie wrote: “America is on a path that won’t end well. We are borrowing money at an unsustainable rate, accumulating enemies through endless war, and eroding rights like free speech & privacy.”

Kentucky’s most contentious campaign in the fall is likely to be over a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow taxpayer money to flow to private or charter schools. If it is ratified by voters, state lawmakers could then decide whether to support private or charter school education with public funds. The state's popular Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, will align with the Kentucky Education Association, a group representing tens of thousands of public school educators, in opposing the measure.

FILE - Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., listens to the testimony of Attorney General Merrick Garland during House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies budget hearing on Capitol Hill, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Washington. Kentucky voters go to the polls for the primary election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Republican Rep. Rogers, faced three primary election challengers in the 5th District, which covers eastern and parts of southern Kentucky. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)

FILE - Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., listens to the testimony of Attorney General Merrick Garland during House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies budget hearing on Capitol Hill, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Washington. Kentucky voters go to the polls for the primary election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Republican Rep. Rogers, faced three primary election challengers in the 5th District, which covers eastern and parts of southern Kentucky. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)

FILE - Democrat Morgan McGarvey speaks to supporters in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, after the won the race for the state's 3rd Congressional District. Kentucky voters go to the polls for the primary election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Rep. McGarvey, the state’s only Democratic congressman, has two opponents in the Louisville-area 3rd District. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

FILE - Democrat Morgan McGarvey speaks to supporters in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, after the won the race for the state's 3rd Congressional District. Kentucky voters go to the polls for the primary election on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Rep. McGarvey, the state’s only Democratic congressman, has two opponents in the Louisville-area 3rd District. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

FILE - Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., speaks during a TV news interview at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. Fresh off his role in a failed attempt to topple the House speaker, Republican Rep. Massie downplayed any political fallout back home in Kentucky as he looked to maintain his dominance in his solidly conservative district as Bluegrass State voters headed to the polls Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE - Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., speaks during a TV news interview at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. Fresh off his role in a failed attempt to topple the House speaker, Republican Rep. Massie downplayed any political fallout back home in Kentucky as he looked to maintain his dominance in his solidly conservative district as Bluegrass State voters headed to the polls Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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