Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
A 19-year-old in Michigan was charged with threatening a synagogue with mass murder. on the fifth anniversary of the massacre at two New Zealand mosques.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan charged Seann Pietila, 19, of PickfordMichigan, for transmitting a communication containing a threat to injure another person.
Investigators allege that the suspect had communicated with another user on Instagram where they expressed strong views against the Jewish population, support for neo-Nazis and idolization of previous mass shooters, according to the criminal complaint cited by ABC News.
A search of the suspect’s phone turned up a message in the Notes app where had identified a synagogue in East Lansing, a date, and a list of equipmentaccording to the complaint.
“Anti-Semitic threats and violence against our Jewish communities, or any other group, will not be tolerated in the Western District of Michigan,” US Attorney Mark Totten said in a statement.
The suspect’s mother, Brittany Stob, told ABC News in a phone call Saturday that her son is still in jail awaiting a detention hearing next week.
Stob claimed that he believes his 19-year-old son is not violent and that he was not really planning an attack, as federal prosecutors allege.
the woman too She claimed that the weapons and tactical equipment seized by the FBI in the search of Pietila’s home this week belonged to her and her husband, not her son.
Stob said her son began consuming anti-Semitic content online when he was isolated during the pandemic and did not have access to the mental health treatment he needed.
The FBI said it received a report Tuesday about threatening communications made online. Meta provided the researchers with information related to the username associated with the threats.
The suspect allegedly spoke about his admiration for the 2019 Christchurch mass shooting in New Zealand.whose shooter is serving a life sentence for killing 51 people and wounding 40 others in the mosque attacks.
When FBI agents arrested Pietila at his home on Friday, they found a cache of weapons, knives, tactical gear, a red and white Nazi flag, and impromptu plans to kill members of the Shaarey Zedek congregation on March 15, 2024.
Pietila is being held temporarily without bond pending a detention hearing Thursday in federal court in Grand Rapids. If he is convicted, he faces up to five years in federal prison.
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