LOS ANGELES — Jewish Defense League leader Irv Rubin, jailed on charges of plotting to bomb a mosque and the office of an Arab-American congressman, was brain dead Monday after what federal authorities called a suicide attempt.
“We’re told that he is brain-dead and on life support,” said Rubin attorney Peter Morris. Rubin’s wife and two sons were called to his bedside, he said.
U.S. marshal’s spokesman Bill Woolsey described Rubin’s condition as critical after more than two hours of surgery at an undisclosed hospital.
Rubin used a razor to slash his neck and throat and then fell or jumped from a prison balcony as he and other inmates lined up for breakfast before 5:30 a.m., Woolsey said.
“There is no evidence at this point that it was anything but a suicide,” Woolsey said.
Rubin fell as far as 18 feet at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center, said Mark Werksman, an attorney representing Rubin’s co-defendant. Rubin was not handcuffed at the time, Woolsey said.
Initially, hospital personnel told prosecutors and defense attorneys that Rubin had died in surgery, said Bryan Altman, also a Rubin attorney. Lawyers in turn told Rubin’s family that he had died.
The FBI was investigating what it was calling a “crime in a government property,” said spokeswoman Laura Bosley. She could not confirm that it was a suicide attempt.
Rubin’s family alleged that Rubin had been attacked by someone.
“My husband would never kill himself. This was a hit, this was a hit,” said his wife, Shelley Rubin.
“I saw my husband yesterday. He was just the same as before. He didn’t say goodbye. He said I will see you in court tomorrow. He was fine,” she said.
Rubin and associate Earl Krugel were arrested Dec. 11 on charges of plotting to bomb the King Fahd mosque in suburban Culver City and an office of Rep. Darrell E. Issa, R-Calif., who is the grandson of Lebanese immigrants.
Rubin and Krugel were arrested after an FBI informant delivered an explosive powder that authorities believed was the last component in making pipe bombs. The charges carry up to 40 years in prison upon conviction.
Rubin, who by his own account has been arrested more than 40 times, joined the JDL early in the 1970s and quickly moved up, becoming chairman in 1985.
In 1989, the leader of the rival Jewish Defense Organization was charged with firing shots at Rubin and wounding three others in New York. Mordechai Levy was convicted of assault.
According to his biography, Rubin learned to fight anti-Semitism while growing up in Montreal, “where some hotel owners and other business people hung signs reading ’No Dogs or Jews Allowed’ on their doors and where French Canadian schoolchildren taunted him because he was Jewish.”