Internet Law

Federal prosecutors drop charges against man accused of causing a journalist's seizure with a tweet

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Federal prosecutors have dropped cyberstalking charges against a Maryland man accused of causing a journalist’s seizure by sending him a tweet with an animated flashing strobe light.

A federal magistrate judge in Dallas dismissed the charges against John Rayne Rivello at the request of federal prosecutors, Texas Lawbook (sub. req.) reports.

Rivello, a former Marine, was accused of sending the image to Newsweek senior writer Kurt Eichenwald with the message, “You deserve a seizure for your posts.” Eichenwald had published negative posts about President Donald Trump.

Rivello’s lawyer, Quinn Emanuel partner David Gerger, told Texas Lawbook the allegations didn’t qualify as cyberstalking under the federal law, which requires “a pattern of electronic messages intending or threatening to cause serious bodily harm.”

Gerger told Texas Lawbook that Rivello served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he was discharged with documented post-traumatic stress disorder.

Rivello still faces state charges of aggravated assault in Dallas County and a civil suit by Eichenwald, who says he suffered an eight-minute seizure after seeing the message. Eichenwald had previously written about having epilepsy.

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