A Maryland man weaponized his Twitter account by purposely sending a seizure-inducing tweet late last year to a journalist with epilepsy, the Justice Department said Friday.
John Rayne Rivello, 29, was arrested Friday for allegedly sending a strobe-embedded Twitter message to senior Newsweek writer Kurt Eichenwald in December 2016. He’s charged with criminal cyberstalking with the intent to kill or cause bodily harm and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted, the New York Times reported.
Federal investigators allege Mr. Rivello used a pseudonymous Twitter account, @jew_goldstein, to send a private message to the journalist on Dec. 15 containing an “animated strobe image” and the words: “You deserve a seizure for your post.”
“Upon viewing the flashing strobe image the victim immediately suffered a seizure,” the Justice Department said Friday.
Mr. Eichenwald, who had publicly discussed his epilepsy prior to the incident, vowed afterwards to pursue legal action against the person responsible.
According to prosecutors, Mr. Rivello sent the seizure-inducing message in addition to other tweets that indicate he purposely targeted the reporter in light of his medical condition.
“I hope this sends him into a seizure,” Mr. Rivello allegedly wrote in a direct message to another Twitter user.
“Spammed this at [victim] let’s see if he dies,” and “I know he has epilepsy,” prosecutors say he wrote in others.
In addition to the private Twitter correspondence, prosecutors said they uncovered further evidence implicating the Salisbury, Md. man upon accessing his Apple iCloud account, including a list of commonly reported seizure triggers and an article in which Mr. Eichenwald discussed his efforts to identify the offending Twitter user.
More than 40 Twitter users sent similar strobes to Mr. Eichenwald after they realized they could trigger seizures, he tweeted Friday.
“Details of their cases are with the FBI. Stop sending them,” he wrote.