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Man Charged With Cyberstalking After Sending Tweet to Epileptic Reporter

The tweet was allegedly sent to Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald in December in response to his outspoken criticism of Donald Trump.
Image: A user scrolls through a Twitter feed
A user scrolls through a Twitter feed.Bloomberg via Getty Images
/ Source: Associated Press

DALLAS — 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 John Rayne Rivello, 29, 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.

The Justice Department said in a news release that investigators obtained a search warrant and found Rivello’s Twitter account "contained direct messages from Rivello’s account to other Twitter users concerning the victim. Among those direct messages included statements by Rivello, including 'I hope this sends him into a seizure,' 'Spammed this at [victim] let’s see if he dies,' and 'I know he has epilepsy.'"

Authorities also said they discovered a screenshot of a Wikipedia page for Eichenwald that had been altered to show a fake obituary and screen shots from with a "list of commonly reported epilepsy seizure triggers."

Eichenwald thanked federal and Dallas law enforcement for the break in the case.

He also tweeted that "more than 40 ppl sent strobes once they found out they could trigger seizures. Details of their cases are with the FBI. Stop sending them."