A Maryland man blamed with sending a seizure-inducing tweet to an epileptic reporter faces further legal woes upon being indicted in Texas on Monday with aggravated assault using a deadly weapon.
John Rivello, 29, was charged by Dallas County prosecutors Monday in connection with sending a strobe-embedded tweet attributing with causing journalist Kurt Eichenwald to suffer a seizure.
A grand jury concluded that Mr. Rivello purposely assaulted the reporter with a deadly weapon, according to the indictment. Specifically, the indictment describes his supposed weapon as, “a tweet and a Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).”
The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office decision to indict the Salisbury, Md. native came three days after the Justice Department announced that a months-long, multi-state investigation involving the same triggering tweet had concluded in his arrest.
The Justice Department said that Mr. Rivello, using the Twitter account “@jew_goldstein,” allegedly tweeted an animated strobe to the reporter on Dec. 15, 2016 accompanied by the words: “You deserve a seizure for your post.” Mr. Eichenwald, a known epileptic, immediately suffered a seizure afterwards and was incapacitated for several minutes, according to filings.
A subsequent investigation uncovered private messages between Mr. Rivello and other Twitter users where he acknowledged the reporter’s condition, allegedly telling one contact: “let’s see if he dies.”
Prosecutors said they also uncovered evidence from Mr. Rivello’s Apple iCloud account, including an image of the reporter’s Wikipedia page that had been edited to erroneously declare Mr. Eichenwald as deceased in addition to “some anti-Semitic references,” according to the initial complaint unsealed in federal court last week.
The U.S. Justice Department officially charged Mr. Rivello last Friday with one count of interstate domestic violence, and arrested him at his home in Salisbury that morning on a federal criminal complaint charging him with cyberstalking. In Texas, meanwhile, the single assault charged handed down on Monday is accompanied by a hate crime enhancement because prosecutors allege Mr. Rivello specifically targeted the reporter on account of his being Jewish.
Mr. Rivello was booked into the Dallas County Jail on Monday night and released early Tuesday morning after posting bond, the Dallas Morning News reported. An online defense fund established for the Salisbury, Md. native said the bond was ordered at $100,000.
In a statement, the defendant’s attorneys described Mr. Rivello as an Marine veteran with post-traumatic stress who has apologized to Mr. Eichenwald for their actions.
“As a young marine [sic] serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, John’s sacred duty was to recover the bodies and remains of our fallen service members so they could be returned to their loved ones. He served with honor and distinction and endured traumatic stress. After reacting to Mr. Eichenwald’s statements, John apologized immediately. He is seeking help from the VA. And we are proud to defend this young man who gave so much defending his country,” the statement said.