A Texas grand jury indicted a Maryland man for sending a GIF to an epileptic reporter via Twitter in the hopes of inducing a seizure. John Rayne Rivello, 29, of Salisbury allegedly sent the strobing image with the message “You deserve a seizure for your post” to reporter Kurt Eichenwald, a senior writer at Newsweek and contributing editor with Vanity Fair. Rivello, a former Marine served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was angered over Eichenwald’s criticisms of President Donald Trump.
As reported by The New York Times, Rivello posed under the name Ari Goldstein and used the handle @jew_goldstein to send the GIF animation to Eichenwald on December 15 of last year. Flashing images are known to trigger seizures in people suffering from epilepsy, and Eichenwald has written about his struggles with the neurological disorder. From his home office in Dallas, Texas, Eichenwald opened the file attached to the Twitter post, and upon seeing the flashing strobe image, he immediately fell to the ground. His seizure lasted for eight minutes, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Upon finding her husband, Eichenwald’s wife Theresa Pearse called 911, took a picture of the GIF and responded to the tweet, saying “@jew_goldstein This is his wife, you caused a seizure. I have your information and have called the police to report the assault.” Eichenwald was incapacitated for several days and lost feeling in his left hand and had trouble speaking for several weeks as a result of the seizure.
After subpoenaing Twitter for access to his account, Dallas police recovered direct messages from @jew_goldstein, referring to Eichenwald and his epilepsy. One said, "I know he has epilepsy," another stating, "I hope this sends him into a seizure," and "let's see if he dies.” They were later able to trace a phone number listed in his profile to an iCloud account, which contained screen grabs from epilepsy.com, a list of commonly reported epilepsy seizure triggers, and articles discussing the case.
FBI agents arrested Rivello at his Maryland home last week on federal cyberstalking charges. On Monday, CBS News reported a Dallas indicted him on an aggravated assault charge enhanced as a hate crime in connection with the case, saying the GIF was used as a “deadly weapon.” Rivello’s lawyers claim he suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from his tenure fighting in the Middle East. Via Twitter, Eichenwald sent a message last week saying “I want to thank Dallas Police, Dallas DA, US Attorney in Dallas, the FBI & the Dept of Homeland Security who all played a role in this case.”
[Photo: Kurt Eichenwald/Twitter]