John Rivello, the Twitter user who allegedly sent a tweet that caused a journalist to have a seizure, was charged by the Dallas District Attorney Monday with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The felony assault charge comes with a hate crime enhancement.
The Maryland man was arrested by the FBI Friday for allegedly sending an animated image, also known as a GIF, to Newsweek writer Kurt Eichenwald in December which said, “you deserve a seizure.”
Eichenwald’s wife subsequently tweeted that the GIF had indeed caused Eichenwald to have a seizure. The federal criminal complaint says that a direct message from Rivello’s alleged account, “Ari Goldstein” or “@jew_goldstein,” to another account said he hopes that the GIF “sends” Eichenwald “into a seizure.”
The FBI located Rivello through an Apple iCloud account associated with a phone number he used to sign up for Twitter. The iCloud account included a photo of Rivello posing with his driver’s license, the complaint says.
This appears to be first situation where someone has been arrested due to an internet posting causing the direct bodily harm of another user. Rivello is being being charged federally under a law which prohibits using an electronic communication service with the intent of hurting or killing another individual. (RELATED: Arrest Of Twitter User Could Have Serious Implications For The World Of Internet Trolling)
Cyber jurisprudence expert Peter Stephenson has previously told The Daily Caller that an assault charge would be more fitting for the situation. A Dallas County Grand Jury indicted Rivello for this crime and included a hate crime enhancement as well.
This enhancement is due to Rivello’s alleged bias towards “persons of Jewish faith or descent.” The federal criminal complaint states that Rivello took screenshots of a Wikipedia page of Eichenwald that was edited to have a fake obituary and included anti-Semitic references.
Eichenwald’s father is Jewish, but the journalist is a practicing Episcopalian. The federal trial for Rivello will take place in Dallas, where Eichenwald lives.