Judge orders prison for Michigan man who made threats against Jewish people, synagogue

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Judge orders prison for Michigan man who made threats against Jewish people, synagogue:-GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — A 20-year-old guy from Michigan was given a federal prison sentence of one year and one day on Monday for making violent threats against Jews on social media.

Judge orders prison for Michigan man who made threats against Jewish people, synagogue

Pickford’s Seann Patrick Pietila got his sentence after pleading guilty in November to a count of sending a threatening message through social media to someone outside of Michigan in the course of interstate or foreign business. He also showed “sympathy with neo-Nazi ideology, antisemitism, and past mass shooters” in his messages, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan said.

U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said in a statement, “Today and every day we will act quickly to find and stop hate crimes.” “No Michigander should have to live in fear because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or any other protected status.”

Pietila was given a prison term and told to pay back more than $10,600 and be under supervision for three years after he got out of prison.

prosecutors wanted Pietila to spend almost three years in jail, but the state’s Federal Public Defender’s office said he didn’t have a criminal record and is sorry for what he did, so he got a lighter sentence.

Hoped to record attack and share via internet

According to court records, Pietila admitted that in June 2023, he told someone on Instagram that he “wanted to kill or hurt Jewish people and use a camera to stream his attack over the internet.” The police said he hoped that someone would record the attack and send it to more people.

In other messages, he used anti-Semitic language and talked about Adolf Hitler. He also talked about his plans to carry out a mass shooting “in a manner similar to a specific past mass shooter,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release.

When Pietila made the threats last summer, he was living in the Lansing area. But when the FBI raided his home later that same month, he was living in the Upper Peninsula. The FBI said that when they searched Pietila’s house, they found a stash of guns, knives, tactical gear, and a red-and-white Nazi flag.

Judge orders prison for Michigan man who made threats against Jewish people, synagogue

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There was also a note on Pietila’s phone with the name of the Shaarey Zedek community in East Lansing, which is close to Michigan State University. The FBI said the date was 2024. Authorities said that his actions were “painful” for the community and made people in the Shaarey Zedek synagogue afraid. In response to the threats last summer, the congregation stepped up its security.

He said in an internet message, “We time it a day after each other,” as stated in his charge. “We would surely inspire others to take arms against the Jewish controlled state.”

Sean Tilton, Pietila’s lawyer, says that his client “never sent the note to anyone or posted it in a public forum.” The state’s Federal Public Defender’s office said Pietila has had mental health problems and could only get to one of the weapons he wrote about on his phone note.

Incident came amid rise in antisemitic incidents nationwide

There were more antisemitic events in the United States at the time of Pietila’s case.

The Anti-Defamation League reported 3,697 antisemitic events across the country in 2022, up 36% from the 2,717 incidents they reported the previous year. The ADL said that the number of antisemitic events in 2022 was the “highest number on record” since the group started keeping track of them in 1979.

Also, there have been a lot more hate crimes against both Jews and Muslims since the Hamas bombings on October 7. The most current data from the ADL shows that there were almost 3,300 acts of antisemitism reported between October 7, 2023, and January 7, 2024.

An ADL news release from January said, “This is a 361% increase compared to the same time last year, when there were 712 incidents.”

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