Of all the outrageous cases of violence that have taken place since Donald Trump’s upset victory, few have been nearly as terrifying as what happened to Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald. On the night of December 15-16, a pro-Trump Twitter user got the bright idea that he could stick it to one of Trump’s biggest tormentors in the media by sending him a strobing GIF, knowing full well it could cause a seizure. Eichenwald, who has battled epilepsy for three decades, suffered a particularly nasty seizure as a result, and immediately set about bringing this deplorable to justice.
Last weekend, the bottom-feeder was finally tracked down. FBI agents arrested John Rivello at his home in Maryland and charged him with cyberstalking. Rivello is suspected of being the man behind the Twitter handle “@jew_goldstein,” which As it turned out, this was only the beginning of Rivello’s troubles. On Monday, a Dallas grand jury indicted Rivello on state charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Namely, a strobing GIF.
Eichenwald tweeted out the happy news soon after the indictment was returned.
This is the county assault indictment against the guy who caused me to have a seizure by tweeting a strobe at me. https://t.co/Oo839cvvK6
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) March 20, 2017
The grand jury found that Rivello “intentionally, knowingly and recklessly” triggered a seizure in Eichenwald by firing off a strobe saying, “You deserve a seizure for your posts.” He did so while being well aware that Eichenwald “was susceptible to seizures and that such animations are capable of causing seizures.” As far as the grand jury was concerned, the tweet, the accompanying strobe, as well as Rivello’s “Electronic Device and Hands,” were “a deadly weapon.” The charge is also considered a hate crime because of evidence that Rivello showed “bias or prejudice” toward Jews.
Rivello wants to make us think that he knows he stepped in it. His lawyers issued a statement saying that he is suffering from PTSD related to his service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now seeking counseling from the VA. Supposedly, he also apologized for the incident.
You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t believe you, John. For one thing, you bragged on Twitter about what you were about to do, and openly wondered if that tweet would kill Eichenwald. And if you really are sorry for what you did, why did you try to keep from being unmasked because–wait for it–revealing your identity would endanger your First Amendment rights? And if you really are sorry for what you did, why haven’t you pleaded guilty and spared Eichenwald and his family further trauma? From where I’m sitting, the only remorse you feel is that you got caught.
If Rivello didn’t realize that he stepped in it before his arrest, he almost certainly knows now. According to the federal criminal complaint against him, the FBI tracked the “@jew_goldstein” account to a prepaid Tracfone. While it ran off AT&T’s network, there was no subscriber information; it was associated with a SIM card that was bought with cash.
However, AT&T’s toll records showed that SIM card was used in an iPhone, prompting FBI agents to search for any iCloud accounts associated with that particular number and iPhone. As it turned out, that number was linked to Rivello’s iCloud account. That iCloud account showed screenshots of the now-infamous strobing GIF sent to Eichenwald.
Incredibly, there are actually people coming to Rivello’s defense. Some of their tweets have to be seen to be believed.
I don't agree with Jew Goldstein but I will defend to the death his right to try to murder Kurt Eichenwald in cold blood
— Crunchy curled hair with straightened bangs (@victoriaxxviii) March 17, 2017
Richard Spencer, the supposed “face” of the alt-right, has been particularly vocal in defending Rivello. He wants his followers to help donate to a defense fund set up by pseudo-journalist and serial harasser Charles C. Johnson.
— Richard ? Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) March 17, 2017
— Richard ? Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) March 19, 2017
So now we know these bottom-feeders find it acceptable to send strobing GIFs at epileptics, knowing full well that they kill. That alone is why Rivello must be smacked down hard if he’s foolish enough to let this go to trial.
If Rivello is convicted on the state charges, he faces a minimum of two years in jail, and a maximum of 20 years. The federal charges carry up to 10 years in prison. To my mind, anything less than 10 years total would be an insult–both to Eichenwald and lower-profile people who have been attacked like this. It’s time to send a message–this guy wasn’t pulling a prank or making a political statement. He committed a criminal assault.
(featured image courtesy Mediaite via MSNBC)