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Man Charged With Felony Assault For Tweeting GIF To Journalist With Epilepsy

A grand jury re-indicted John Rayne Rivello for sending a seizure-inducing tweet to journalist Kurt Eichenwald in 2016.

Dallas County, TX – The man who was accused of intentionally sending a seizure-inducing tweet to reporter Kurt Eichenwald in 2016 was re-indicted by a grand jury on Dec. 6 on charges of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury.

It all began after Dallas-based journalist Kurt Eichenwald received a strobing GIF in a tweet from a critic on Dec. 15, 2016 that he said caused him to have an eight-minute seizure, the Dallas Morning News reported.

His wife, a doctor, found him seizing and took a picture of the throbbing image on the computer screen.

Eichenwald told ABC News at the time that he couldn’t get out of bed for 24 hours afterward and likely wouldn’t be able to drive for months.

The tweet sent to Eichenwald arrived not long after the liberal reporter battled it out over political biases in journalism with Tucker Carlson on FOX News.

During that segment, Eichenwald claimed President Donald Trump had spent time in a mental hospital in 1990 as a result of a problem with an addiction to amphetamine derivatives but refused to provide evidence of his claims.

Afterwards, the reporter engaged in a number of Twitter conversations that included his criticisms of the newly-elected President.

Prosecutors said that then-30-year-old John Rayne Rivello, a U.S. Marine veteran who suffers from PTSD, became angry and tweeted the strobing GIF to Eichenwald with the message “You deserve a seizure for your post,” according to the Dallas Morning News.

The 2017 complaint against Rivello said investigators had found numerous direct messages on his Twitter account referencing violence against Eichenwald, including “I hope this sends him into a seizure,” “let’s see if he dies,” and he “deserves to have his liver pecked out by a pack of emus.”

Police were able to trace the Twitter account back to Rivello’s iCloud account, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The iCloud account also held, among other related items, the seizure-inducing GIF that had been sent to Eichenwald, a list of triggers for epileptic seizures, a screenshot of the reporter’s home address, and a screenshot of his Wikipedia page with his death date listed as Dec. 16, 2016, the day after Rivello allegedly sent the tweet.

Rivello was arrested at his home in Salisbury, Maryland on March 17, 2017 on a federal charge of cyberstalking Eichenwald, according to a press release put out by the U.S. Department of Justice.

He was also indicted by a grand jury in Dallas County on charges of aggravated assault with a hate-crime enhancement, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Eichenwald also filed a civil lawsuit against Rivello, seeking monetary damages for the incident.

But the federal charges were dismissed a few months later at the request of the U.S. Attorney, the Dallas Morning News reported.

“The dismissal is designed to enable the criminal authorities to pursue the more severe penalties against Mr. Rivello in the pending proceeding in the state courts,” Eichenwald’s attorney, Steven Liberman, explained in a statement at the time.

Court records showed that Dallas County lead prosecutor Stephani Martin refiled the case against Rivello on Nov. 27.

A grand jury indicted Rivello on the aggravated assault charge on Dec. 6, records showed.

According to local blog Dallas.org, prosecuting attorneys have subpoenaed Eichenwald’s wife, an internal medicine physician, and son in the case.

Prosecutors have also subpoenaed Dallas neurologist Robert Leroy and a Chapman University sociologist and expert on hate crimes, Dr. Peter Simi.

The “assault-by-Twitter-picture” trial is scheduled to begin before Judge Carter Thompson in Dallas County Criminal District Court # 5 on Dec. 16, according to Dallas.org.

Blue Lives Matter reached out to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office to inquire as to whether the charges against Rivello included the hate-crime enhancements like the earlier charges.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot’s assistant responded via email and said they were looking into it.

Sandy Malone - December Tue, 2019

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