Man arrested after sending tweet 'attack' that caused journalist to have epilepsy seizure

Ruth Sherlock
US President Donald Trump attends a meeting about healthcare in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 13, 2017 - AFP or licensors

A man who allegedly tweeted an animated strobe image to a journalist with epilepsy has been arrested and charged with cyberstalking.

The flashing image sent to Kurt Eichenwald, a Newsweek senior writer and Vanity Fair contributing editor, on December 15 came with the message: "You deserve a seizure for your post," according to the criminal complaint.

Mr Eichenwald said the image triggered a seizure and he then sought to identify the person who sent it.

After a three month investigation, police arrested John Rayne Rivello, 29 in Maryland on Friday.

The Twitter account belonging to Mr Rivello allegedly contained direct messages sent to other users regarding Mr Eichenwald. They included statements like "Spammed this at (victim) let's see if he dies," and "I know he has epilepsy," according to the allegations in a court affidavit.

Investigators also reportedly found screen shots from an epilepsy website with a list of commonly reported epilepsy seizure triggers and a story from a Dallas news site about Mr Eichenwald's efforts to subpoena Twitter to track down the user who sent him the image.  

Mr Eichenwald tweeted that "more than 40 ppl sent strobes once they found out they could trigger seizures. He wrote: "Stop sending them."

Mr Ravello apparently sent the image in response to Mr Eichenwald's outspoken criticism of then-President-elect Donald Trump. Mr Eichenwald wrote about the incident in an article for Newsweek magazine in July last year.

"Shortly after I wrote an article for Newsweek about how Donald Trump’s business interests could undermine national security should he be elected president, one of his supporters assaulted me," he wrote.  "He used the internet to do it."

He said someone with the Twitter handle 'Mike's Deplorable AF' had sent him a video with "some sort of strobe light, with flashing circles and images of Pepe flying toward the screen". 

"It’s what’s called epileptogenic—something that triggers seizures. Fortunately, since I was standing, I simply dropped my iPad to the ground the second I realized what Mike had done. It landed face down on the bathroom floor."

"The deplorables are real," he wrote. "The deplorables are dangerous."


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