An alleged Twitter troll behind a virtual attack that caused Newsweek senior writer Kurt Eichenwald to suffer a seizure was arrested on Friday. The suspect faces federal charges and could face additional counts in Dallas, where Eichenwald lives, according to the writer.
FBI officials arrested the man at his home in in Salisbury, Maryland, before 7 a.m. on Friday, according to Steven Lieberman, Eichenwald’s lawyer. The person was expected to appear at a hearing in federal court in Baltimore on Friday afternoon, Lieberman said.
“What [this person] did with his Twitter message was no different from someone sending a bomb in the mail or sending an envelope filled with Anthrax spores,” Lieberman says. “It wasn’t the content of the communication that was intended to persuade somebody or make them feel badly about themselves; This was an electronic communication that was designed to have a physical effect.”
On December 15, hours after Eichenwald appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight, the Twitter user @jew_goldstein tweeted a strobing image to the writer that allegedly said, “You deserve a seizure.” Later that night, in a reply to @jew_goldstein, a post appeared on the Eichenwald’s Twitter feed that said, “This is his wife, you caused a seizure. I have your information and have called the police to report the assault.”
The next day, Eichenwald tweeted that he would be working with lawyers and law enforcement. “Last night, for the second time, a deplorable aware I have epilepsy tweeted a strobe at me with the message ‘you deserve a seizure’ on it,” he wrote. “It worked. This is not going to happen again. My wife is terrified. I am...disgusted.”
Eichenwald filed a petition in Dallas County court on December 19, requesting an expedited discovery process so that he could seek records from Twitter. A judge granted the petition later that day.
In January, the individual behind the attack, named in court documents as John Doe, filed a motion to prevent Twitter from disclosing his identity. A lawyer for that person wrote in the motion that Eichenwald was making an “attempt to use his suit to chill the First Amendment and further embarrass and harass Doe.”Days later, Eichenwald's lawyer told the court that because they had figured out the identity of the “assailant,” they would withdraw the request for Twitter’s help.
Lieberman, Eichenwald’s lawyer, declined to say how they learned of the suspect’s identity.
“We’re very gratified that the government has worked hard and promptly to make sure that the person who was responsible for this attack is held to account,” Lieberman says. “It sends an important message that there is no free shot against journalists in the country.”
Since the December incident, more than 40 other people have sent similar strobing images to Eichenwald, the writer tweeted on Friday. He said “details of their cases are with the FBI.” A spokesperson for the FBI office in Dallas said she could not comment on ongoing investigations.