Man Charged With Felony Assault For Tweeting GIF To Journalist With Epilepsy

Sandy Malone

A grand jury re-indicted John Rayne Rivello for sending a seizure-inducing tweet to journalist Kurt Eichenwald in 2016.

Dallas County, TX – The man who was accused of intentionally sending a seizure-inducing tweet to reporter Kurt Eichenwald in 2016 was re-indicted by a grand jury on Dec. 6 on charges of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury.

It all began after Dallas-based journalist Kurt Eichenwald received a strobing GIF in a tweet from a critic on Dec. 15, 2016 that he said caused him to have an eight-minute seizure, the Dallas Morning News reported.

His wife, a doctor, found him seizing and took a picture of the throbbing image on the computer screen.

Eichenwald told ABC News at the time that he couldn't get out of bed for 24 hours afterward and likely wouldn't be able to drive for months.

The tweet sent to Eichenwald arrived not long after the liberal reporter battled it out over political biases in journalism with Tucker Carlson on FOX News.

During that segment, Eichenwald claimed President Donald Trump had spent time in a mental hospital in 1990 as a result of a problem with an addiction to amphetamine derivatives but refused to provide evidence of his claims.

Afterwards, the reporter engaged in a number of Twitter conversations that included his criticisms of the newly-elected President.

Prosecutors said that then-30-year-old John Rayne Rivello, a U.S. Marine veteran who suffers from PTSD, became angry and tweeted the strobing GIF to Eichenwald with the message “You deserve a seizure for your post,” according to the Dallas Morning News.

The 2017 complaint against Rivello said investigators had found numerous direct messages on his Twitter account referencing violence against Eichenwald, including "I hope this sends him into a seizure," "let's see if he dies," and he "deserves to have his liver pecked out by a pack of emus."

Police were able to trace the Twitter account back to Rivello’s iCloud account, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The iCloud account also held, among other related items, the seizure-inducing GIF that had been sent to Eichenwald, a list of triggers for epileptic seizures, a screenshot of the reporter’s home address, and a screenshot of his Wikipedia page with his death date listed as Dec. 16, 2016, the day after Rivello allegedly sent the tweet.

Rivello was arrested at his home in Salisbury, Maryland on March 17, 2017 on a federal charge of cyberstalking Eichenwald, according to a press release put out by the U.S. Department of Justice.

He was also indicted by a grand jury in Dallas County on charges of aggravated assault with a hate-crime enhancement, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Eichenwald also filed a civil lawsuit against Rivello, seeking monetary damages for the incident.

But the federal charges were dismissed a few months later at the request of the U.S. Attorney, the Dallas Morning News reported.

"The dismissal is designed to enable the criminal authorities to pursue the more severe penalties against Mr. Rivello in the pending proceeding in the state courts," Eichenwald’s attorney, Steven Liberman, explained in a statement at the time.

Court records showed that Dallas County lead prosecutor Stephani Martin refiled the case against Rivello on Nov. 27.

A grand jury indicted Rivello on the aggravated assault charge on Dec. 6, records showed.

According to local blog Dallas.org, prosecuting attorneys have subpoenaed Eichenwald's wife, an internal medicine physician, and son in the case.

Prosecutors have also subpoenaed Dallas neurologist Robert Leroy and a Chapman University sociologist and expert on hate crimes, Dr. Peter Simi.

The “assault-by-Twitter-picture” trial is scheduled to begin before Judge Carter Thompson in Dallas County Criminal District Court # 5 on Dec. 16, according to Dallas.org.

Blue Lives Matter reached out to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office to inquire as to whether the charges against Rivello included the hate-crime enhancements like the earlier charges.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot’s assistant responded via email and said they were looking into it.

Comments (35)
JBoH
JBoH

Friggin' nut jobs. Excuse my French.

No. 1-15
Jim H. - Virginia US
Jim H. - Virginia US

Kind of interesting. If you send peanut dust to someone you know has a peanut allergy, I would suspect that you could be charged and convicted.

In this case, I think that unless the guy knew that the "victim" was sensitive to visually-induced seizures, it's a real stretch.

Anyway, the Gif image is all over the internet. It is clearly meant to be a joke, but it is rather striking if you stare at it for a while like I did. :-)

Here it is, in the interest of science, discourse, and discussion of legal matters. :-)

Please don't load this URL if you have any chance of having a seizure or other reaction from flashing images...

i.imgur.com/1qNRphV.gif

tfort
tfort

How long did he look at the strobe light?

Cop Watch
Cop Watch

that's a new one! assault by twitter.

bryantrent
bryantrent

Scary

Bill d
Bill d

Please tell me there is more evidence than just his wife? Eichenwald isn't an honorable human being in any sense of the word. The Marine went way too far, I simply don't believe Eichenwald or his wife, there needs to be more evidence.

Carolinny
Carolinny

Eichenwald’s claim sounds hokey to me.

SheDevil
SheDevil

WTH does this have to do with LEO's?

portManaT13
portManaT13

This is going to get argued as a Free Speech issue. And the "offender" will likely win. As to the peanut dust mentioned above, there is something physical involved with that, like sending anthrax, etc. With this, the offended person had to open the GIF, and then observe it for a long enough time to have it create the seizure. There are other "flashing" lights in the ambient environment that could do this also. Where will an offended person's ability to claim damage ever stop if this goes through?

Caddis
Caddis

Another lying so called journalist trying to make news rather than reporting it. The whole seizure thing with his wife recording it sound bogus. What about all the celebrities making verbal threats against Trump. No one was prosecuted. Complete bias double standard.

Caroparks53
Caroparks53

Gifs all over twitter. Stay off social media if you r someone who suffers from epilepsy..

tuggingalong
tuggingalong

If that’s a crime then the mainstream media should be sentenced to life in prison for what they do to conservatives.

copper347
copper347

If they can’t medically prove that a seizure occurred then what the hell. It would be if a spouse says that guy beat up my partner but there wasn’t any evidence of an assault. If I were the judge I would bring in medical personnel and then play the gif in the courtroom and see if the person seizes. (Sarcasm)

Pack
Pack

Another snowflake looking for their 15 minutes of fame

RC427
RC427

Yet Trump supporters are physically assaulted and charges seem to never happen.


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