A Maryland man was arrested Friday on a cyberstalking charge in connection with allegedly sending an epilepsy sufferer an animated Twitter message telling the victim that “you deserve a seizure,” federal officials said.
The victim has been identified as a Newsweek writer who is a critic of President Trump.
Newsweek said the victim was Kurt Eichenwald,
a senior writer. The Justice Department said that after viewing the strobe image, the victim “immediately suffered a seizure.”
Eichenwald has written for Newsweek about having epilepsy.
Cyberspace is filled with harsh exchanges. However, the allegations in this case suggest it may be one of the first in which physical harm resulted from receipt of a cybermessage.
The suspect was identified by the Justice Department as John Rayne Rivello, 29, of Salisbury, Md. The department said he was arrested Friday in Maryland on a criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of Texas. Eichenwald lives in Dallas.
The Twitter message told the recipient “you deserve a seizure for your post,” according to a statement from the Justice Department. The statement did not name the alleged victim.
On his Twitter feed, Eichenwald said that the FBI had arrested “the man who assaulted me using a strobe on twitter that triggered a seizure.” The Dallas police also investigated.
The matter apparently can be traced back to last year.
In October, shortly after publishing an article about Trump’s conflicts of interest, Eichenwald said that he received a video from a Twitter account that listed “Mike’s Deplorable AF” as the handle.
According to a Newsweek article, Eichenwald said the video contained strobe lights, flashing circles and a picture of Pepe the Frog flying at the screen. Eichenwald said the images were designed to trigger an epileptic seizure.
He said he avoided injury by dropping his iPad facedown on the floor. Writing about the incident in Newsweek at the time, he said he expected more attacks to follow.
A similar message was received Dec. 15, Eichenwald said. He said he did go into convulsions.
His assailant, he said, knew “his actions could injure me, and he succeeded.”
In its statement, the Justice Department said evidence received pursuant to a search warrant turned up an iCloud account with a screenshot of “a Wikipedia page for the victim.”
The complaint said the shot had been altered to show a fake obituary, with the date of death listed as Dec. 16, 2016.