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Man faces hate-crime charge in Dallas County over tweet that led to seizure

DALLAS >> The man accused of sending a seizure-inducing tweet to Dallas-based journalist Kurt Eichenwald has now been indicted in Dallas County.

John Rayne Rivello, 29, is charged with one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The charge carries a hate-crime enhancement.

Rivello, a resident of Salisbury, Md., was booked into the Dallas County Jail on Monday night and released around 2 a.m. Tuesday after posting bond.

Last week, Rivello was arrested at his Maryland home on a federal cyberstalking charge in connection with the case.

Eichenwald, a senior writer at Newsweek and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, said in December that someone had tweeted a flashing animated image at him that had induced an epileptic seizure. The image included the message “You deserve a seizure for your post.”

The tweet came not long after Eichenwald had argued with Tucker Carlson on Carlson’s Fox News show about each other’s political biases and journalistic wrongdoings.

According to the federal criminal complaint, Eichenwald’s seizure on Dec. 15 lasted for eight minutes.

His wife walked into the room and placed Eichenwald safely on the floor and called 911. She also took a picture of the tweet and responded to it, saying that she had reported the incident to police.

Dallas police served Twitter with a search warrant for the user’s account, jew — goldstein, and recovered a number of direct messages that referred to Eichenwald.

“I know he has epilepsy,” “I hope this sends him into a seizure,” “let’s see if he dies,” they read. Another said that Eichenwald “deserves to have his liver pecked out by a pack of emus.”

According to the criminal complaint, police were able to link a phone number associated with the Twitter account to an Apple iCloud storage account belonging to Rivello. One of the files on the account was a selfie of Rivello holding his Maryland driver’s license.

In charging Rivello with cyberstalking, the FBI concluded that the tweet was sent “with the intent to kill, injure, harass, and intimidate.”

A Dallas County grand jury indicted Rivello on Monday morning, saying that he knew Eichenwald was susceptible to epileptic seizures and used a deadly weapon — the animated image in the tweet — to assault him.

A hate-crime enhancement was added to the charge because of Rivello’s “bias or prejudice against a group identified by race, ancestry, or religion, namely: persons of Jewish faith or descent,” the indictment says.

Rivello’s laywers released a statement Tuesday saying that their client, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, immediately apologized for the incident.

“He is seeking help from the VA,” the statement says. “And we are proud to defend this young man who gave so much defending his country.”

Eichenwald said last week on Twitter that dozens of people have sent flashing images at him in the months since jew — goldstein’s offending tweet. Their information has been forwarded to the FBI, he said.

His attorney, Steven Liberman, told Newsweek that “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.”

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