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

Kurt Eichenwald in 2009
(Image credit: Charles Eshelman/Getty Images)

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."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.