A Maryland man has been arrested on a federal cyberstalking charge of sending a Dallas-based magazine reporter an image on Twitter intended to trigger an epileptic seizure.
Federal officials say twenty-nine-year-old John Rayne Rivello, of Salisbury was arrested in Maryland on Friday on a criminal complaint filed in Dallas.
The complaint was filed in December by Kurt Eichenwald, a Newsweek reporter who has epilepsy and was sent a strobe image to his Twitter account on Dec. 15 intended to trigger a seizure. Included with the image was the message: "You deserve a seizure for your posts."
The image was apparently sent in response to Eichenwald's outspoken criticism of then-President-elect Donald Trump.
“He thoroughly investigated epilepsy and the symptoms of epilepsy and he sent a specific tweet that would create an epileptic reaction,” said Richardson attorney Julian Nacol. “The defendant sent multiple emails and text messages to the victim. That’s what makes this so different.”
Eichenwald thanked federal and Dallas law enforcement for the break in the case.
Rivello faces up to ten years in a federal prison for his tweets. But under state charges expected to be brought by the district attorney, he could get as much as 99 years in prison if convicted.
“Right now this man is charged with a crime that is punishable with the same range of punishment that murder is punished by,” said attorney Nicole Knox.
A New York law firm now representing Rivello said in a statement to FOX4:
“As a young marine serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, John's sacred duty was to recover the bodies and remains of our fallen service members so they could be returned to their loved ones. He served with honor and distinction and endured traumatic stress. After reacting to Mr. Eichenwald's statements, John apologized immediately. He is seeking help from the VA. And we are proud to defend this young man who gave so much defending his country.”
But other attorneys say the severity of the charges is a clear message that should be posted in the real and virtual world.
“Actions such as these tweets that are made to hurt an individual specifically will not be tolerated,” Nacol said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.