Speed Reads

Crime and punishment

Maryland man charged with hate crime for tweeting journalist Kurt Eichenwald a seizure-inducing image

On Tuesday, a Dallas County jury indicted Maryland resident John Rayne Rivello, 29, on a hate-crime charge for tweeting a strobing image to author and investigative journalist Kurt Eichenwald that induced a seizure. The tweet, sent right after Eichenwald had sparred with Fox News host Tucker Carlson about Donald Trump on Dec. 15, had included the message: "You deserve a seizure for your posts." Eichenwald has epilepsy, and Rivello was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; the hate-crime enhancement was added because of his alleged "bias or prejudice against a group identified by race, ancestry, or religion, namely: persons of Jewish faith or descent."

Rivello was arrested last week after police linked the offending Twitter handle @jew_goldstein to his phone number, then an Apple iCloud account with a copy of the animated GIF, a photo of Rivello holding up his Maryland driver's license, and screenshots of the tweet and response from Eichenwald's wife, Eichenwald's home address, a list of triggers for epileptic seizures, and a Wikipedia bio of Eichenwald listing his death as Dec. 16, the day after the tweet that triggered Eichenwald's eight-minute seizure. Police also found a number of direct messages that mentioned Eichenwald in the @jew_goldstien account, including: "I know he has epilepsy," "I hope this sends him into a seizure," "let's see if he dies," and Eichenwald "deserves to have his liver pecked out by a pack of emus."

Rivello's lawyer pleaded for understanding in a statement Tuesday, saying his client is a military veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder, and has apologized to Eichenwald. Eichenwald's lawyer, Steven Liberman, told Newsweek — where his client is a reporter — that sending an epileptic person a seizure-inducing GIF on social media is "no different from someone sending a bomb in the mail or sending an envelope filled with anthrax spores."