A man who tweeted an offer to pay $500 to anyone who would kill a federal immigration agent was acquitted Friday by a federal jury in Boston.
Brandon Ziobrowski, 35, was arrested in August 2018 and charged with use of interstate and foreign commerce to transmit a threat to injure another person.
The tweet posted in July 2018 read: "I am broke but I will scrounge and literally give $500 to anyone who kills an ice agent,” referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, federal prosecutors said. Ziobrowski had faced up to five years in prison.
"It seemed like the right verdict," Ziobrowski said after the federal jury made its decision, "It's been a horrible year. I'm glad it's over.”
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Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said in a statement that he respects the jury’s decision.
"But in this case the defendant posted a tweet that, on its face, offered $500 to anyone who killed a federal agent," Lelling said. "In 2019, over 100 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty. The public needs to know that, regardless of today's verdict, we will never hesitate to prosecute apparent threats against law enforcement officers."
Ziobrowski's attorney, Derege Demissie, said the case "should never have gone this far."
"The government turned a tweet that was made in jest — a hyperbolic political statement — into a federal case," he said.
According to the indictment, Ziobrowski had previously tweeted his desire to "slit" the late Sen. John McCain's throat. He began to post tweets in February 2018 promoting violence against law enforcement, prosecutors said.
They said at the time he was arrested that one of his February 2018 tweets read: "Guns should only be legal for shooting the police like the second amendment intended."
Demissie had argued that his client’s comments were constitutionally protected political speech that had been "blown out of proportion" by prosecutors.
"This is a guy who tweets about all kinds of things and says outrageous things," Demissie said.
Twitter suspended Ziobrowski's account in July 2018 at the request of law enforcement.