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Man Who Sent Allegedly “Seizure-Inducing” Tweet to Journalist Arrested by FBI

Man Who Sent Allegedly “Seizure-Inducing” Tweet to Journalist Arrested by FBI

Be careful what you tweet to journalists…

This is a truly bizarre case.

Remember Kurt Eichenwald? The Journalist who claimed he was assaulted by a tweet? Well, the FBI confirmed Friday they’ve arrested John Rivello, the suspect they believe sent a “seizure-inducing” tweet to Dallas reporter, Kurt Eichenwald. Eichenwald claims the tweet triggered an epileptic seizure.

Professor Jacobson covered the case in December. For background, see here.

The Dallas Morning News reported:

Eichenwald tweeted that the man who “assaulted” him faces federal charges and is also expected to be indicted by the Dallas district attorney on different charges in the next few days.

Eichenwald, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a senior writer at Newsweek, first said in December that a Twitter troll sent him a flashing video with the message, “you deserve a seizure,” which triggered an epileptic episode.

He received the tweet after appearing on Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight when they argued about each other’s biases and Eichenwald’s coverage of President Donald Trump during the election.

On Friday, Eichenwald said that more than 40 people sent him strobes once they found out that they could trigger seizures.

Hagee said the FBI cannot comment on ongoing investigations, but Eichenwald tweeted that the agency has details of the other cases of strobes and urged those people to “stop sending them.”

Newsweek expounded:

Steven Lieberman, Eichenwald’s lawyer, named the suspect as John Rivello. A law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the name. FBI officials arrested the man at his home in in Salisbury, Maryland, around 7 a.m. on Friday, according to Lieberman. Rivello was expected to appear at a hearing in federal court in Baltimore on Friday afternoon, Lieberman said.

“What Mr. Rivello did with his Twitter message was no different from someone sending a bomb in the mail or sending an envelope filled with Anthrax spores,” Lieberman says. “It wasn’t the content of the communication that was intended to persuade somebody or make them feel badly about themselves; This was an electronic communication that was designed to have a physical effect.”

Eichenwald tweeted:

Journalist claims he was “assaulted” by something he saw he received on Twitter. The FBI, Dallas PD, Dallas DA, U.S. Attorney, and DHS get involved. Offending tweeter is arrested.

Would the feds have expended so many resources if this was any other private citizen? And what kind of chilling effect will this type of extensive crackdown have?

Send a ridiculous tweet to a journalist and you’ll have the whole of the federal law enforcement brigade on your tail. Horrifying doesn’t quite cut it.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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Proof liberals are mentally defective? Some see the light and go bonkers.

Bitterlyclinging | March 18, 2017 at 7:28 am

Valium/Diazepam is a proven very good anti seizure agent.
Mr Eichenwald could have had a twofer if he had taken one, calmed the seizure and chilling out. Sounds like Kurt could have used a little of both.
Give me a break.
Just be careful having that glass of bordeaux or cabernet sauvignon after consuming the anti epileptic. Alcoholic content beverages and alprazalalazams dont mix well

I’d like to see the medical evidence on this theory.

    tom swift in reply to snopercod. | March 18, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Oh, I suspect there’ll be no shortage of expert witnesses.

    When they present one who actually knows something about epileptic seizures, the claims that this case is “ridiculous” will evaporate.

    Mercyneal in reply to snopercod. | March 18, 2017 at 11:58 am

    His wife is a doctor and has routinely covered for him in the past- in particular when the NY Times learned that using a pseudonym he gave thousands to that underaged boy in the child porn films, and then claimed he couldn’t remember doing so because of his seizures.

    In the last couple of months, Eichenwald has been bragging on Twitter that he was the victim of an Anthrax attack. Only trouble is, there’s no record of this. He is not on the list of 17 people in the US who were exposed to Anthrax.

    He is a liar

Yes, law enforcement certainly are busy little bees when it doesn’t matter.

DINORightMarie | March 18, 2017 at 8:35 am

Oh – if the federal judge allows this to go forward, there is SO MUCH the defense can (and NEEDS) to do to destroy this insane accusation.

Prove you had a seizure. What meds do you take to control your seizures? Are you medically prevented from driving due to your sensitivity to strobe effects? Do you watch movies and TV, which all have strobe effects? Do you drive at night, when flashing lights have the strobe effect? Do you use a computer? What do you do when a strobe effect comes onto your computer screen, or on an ad on your phone? On, and on, and on. This makes ANYONE who uses strobe effect in videos, ads, on a computer LIABLE and possibly GUILTY to SENDING A BOMB or ANTHRAX…..really?!

Lord protect us.

That so many government officials and offices – both state and federal – have become involved is indeed frightening. Hideous.

If the federal judge does NOT throw this out (at least the strobe tweet part of what they arrested him for), then the federal judge will demonstrate further that the federal justices need to be dismissed in toto or abolish several “bad courts” and then restructure the entire system with NEW justice apointees.

    C. Lashown in reply to DINORightMarie. | March 18, 2017 at 9:49 am

    There is a moral here: Don’t pick on delicate liberal pansies, they might get their knickers in a knot! What better way to ‘pay back’ his persecutor than to claim a premeditated attack was launched with the expected outcome. Evidence? ROFL

I’m no fan of Eichenwald, but what this guy allegedly did was not an innocent tweet. It is true that some epilpetics are sensitive to flashing lights. The tweet sent to Eichewald, included a flashing GIF and said “you deserve a seizure”. That shows clear intent.

How is this any different to intending to trigger an allergic reaction by mailing powdered peanut butter to somebody with a peanut allergy?

    Sanddog in reply to Ironman. | March 18, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Should you reasonably expect to find peanut butter in your mailbox? No.

    Should you reasonably expect to encounter flashing lights on the internet? Probably, yes.

This is a very slippery slope Ironman

    Ironman in reply to gonzotx. | March 18, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Gonzotx, it comes down to mens rea. What was the intent behind the tweet? If the tweet only said “you deserve a seizure”. Then that is purely rhetorical and not actionable. But, the suspect included a GIF to induce a seizure. That makes it different.

    If I know you have a peanut allergy, and send you a letter in the mail that says “I hope you get sick” and I include powdered peanut butter, then I am taking specific action to make you sick.

    Just like there is a difference between saying “I hope you die” and saying “I hope you die” while pointing a gun at your head.

      gmac124 in reply to Ironman. | March 18, 2017 at 11:32 am

      “If I know you have a peanut allergy, and send you a letter in the mail that says “I hope you get sick” and I include powdered peanut butter, then I am taking specific action to make you sick.”

      The prosecution has a huge hurdle to get over for this case though. Did the defendant KNOW that Eichenwald was a light sensitive epileptic? Taking your example a little further if I send out 10,000 letters prepared with the note and powdered peanut butter to people being jerks and one of them happens to get sick is it still criminal. Does the person that sent the tweet commonly send this tweet to people being jerks? If so it will be really hard to prove intent to harm. Being a jerk to a jerk is a natural reaction. Unfortunately with the advent of social media the methods have changed and not for the bettor.

        Ironman in reply to gmac124. | March 18, 2017 at 12:24 pm

        Google the term “mens rea”. It has to do with the intent of the person. Rivello did not send the tweet out to 10,000 people. He researched Eichenwald saw that he was an epileptic, he researched epilepsy and what triggers seizures, and sent the tweet with the intent of triggering an epileptic seizure in Kurt Eichenwald. He further enlisted other people to send similar tweets. He also put together a fake Wikipedia obituary for Eichenwald.

        This guy Rivello sounds like an f’ing nutcase. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we have them too, otherwise we are no better than the Lefties who rationalize away their nutcases.

          gmac124 in reply to Ironman. | March 18, 2017 at 1:47 pm

          So we have 2 f’ing nut cases. One is a known liar and the other is being charged with cyberstalking. To put it bluntly the GIF wasn’t a crime. It was sent hoping to induce a reaction, that if the person receiving it was susceptible to, should be taking precautions to prevent such a reaction. The remaining issues in the complaint might rise to the criminal level but if we start allowing things like the GIF to be prosecuted we aren’t far from book burning.

Actually, I am not about to discount the ability of a rapidly and brightly flashing gif to trigger a seizure. I’ve come across some people have posted in the comments section of a site that I moderate that I have to look away from while I delete them. And I have no medical propensity towards seizures.

Sometimes just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean that you should – and yes, I would absolutely consider this deliberate assault.

ScottTheEngineer | March 18, 2017 at 9:08 am

I used to work with a guy that had a very sensitive stomach. He’d throw up whenever he saw videos of people Defecating etc… That led to everyone he worked with sending him photos and videos via instant messenger of some of the most disgusting heinous crap found on the internet. Should they all go to jail too?

I have no problem with some miscreant being charged with battery (or whatever) if he took an action intended to cause physical harm.

Words. Actions. Distinct concepts. One is protected, the other is not.

This case doesn’t hinge on how big a jerk Eichenwald may or may not be. Laws protect him from physical attack, even if he’s a putz. And properly so.

Whether any physical harm actually resulted is a matter for the legal system to resolve in its ponderous, expensive, time-honored way.

I don’t see this flying. Assault requires an overt act of violence or intimidation. Sending a GIF is no different than words. There is no overt act of threatened violence with a GIF.

Twitter ToS says you may receive “harmful” images. Does one who CHOOSES to go on Twitter and to have an open feed not bear personal responsibility if he indeed does have this rare condition? You don’t have to use Twitter. You can lock your account so not everyone can send you images. What would a court say on this? Then there is the other side- if the tweeter did send that strobe image knowing Kurt claims he has epilepsy, is that intent to harm? Can an image now be a weapon? Im really interested in legal opinions here. I agree sending the strobe images was a crappy thing to do but am skeptical this would even make it to court.

I’m surprised nobody on the thread picked up on the False Parallel:

Lieberman said, “What Mr. Rivello did with his Twitter message was no different from someone sending a bomb in the mail or sending an envelope filled with Anthrax spores,”…

Considerable huffing and puffing into the balloon there, Mr. Lieberman. Let us draw a direct parallel between emailing somebody a picture with blinking lights, against sending destructive devices designed to kill, maim, and murder? No.

    Mercyneal in reply to georgfelis. | March 18, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    The irony is that in the last few months Eichenwald has been brag Tweeting that he was a victim of a direct Anthrax attack and yet it was “meh” to him. And then he has made increasingly contradictory statements about this alleged attack. In one Tweet he said he took Cipro to treat it. In another he said he couldn’t take Cipro because of his epilepsy.

    When pressed by people on Twitter for more details, Eichenwald claims that he was there when the envelope with Anthrax was opened at Tom Daschle’s office in 2001. There is NO record of him being there, no news story anywhere about this. A couple of people in Daschle’s office were exposed but nowhere anywhere is there anything on Eichenwald being a victim. He never spoke about being a victim until last year.. and yet won’t answer questions about the claims. When I contacted his editor at Newsweek in January about Eichenwald’s questionable claims, the editor went ballistic on me…

    There is also a doctor’s letter from an NPR story in 2005 that Eichenwald’s kind of epilepsy doesn’t cause actual seizures.

    DINORightMarie in reply to georgfelis. | March 18, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    I did – at the end of my comment. 🙂

healthguyfsu | March 18, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Twitter is public domain, not his own personal mailbox. There is a difference between the situation described by his lawyer and what happened.

I don’t believe he had a seizure. It’s just made up BS.