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Michigan teen pleads guilty to threatening mass shooting at synagogue

A 19-year-old is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to threatening a mass shooting targeting Jewish people.
Michigan teen pleads guilty to threatening mass shooting at synagogue
Posted at 5:31 PM, Nov 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-17 19:31:51-05

A Michigan teenager has pleaded guilty to threatening on social media to commit a mass shooting against Jewish people.

In a series of Instagram messages, 19-year-old Seann Pietila spoke with another user about how he wanted to plan a mass murder attack and stream it online, also saying he wanted to time the attack with that of the other user's to "surely inspire others to take arms against the Jewish controlled state." Other messages highlighted by prosecutors include Pietila using Nazi slogans and saying he was "taking some homemade Napalm to burn some bodies," court documents show.

These communications "demonstrated sympathy with neo-Nazi ideology, antisemitism, and past mass shooters," the Justice Department noted.

The federal agency said a search of Pietila's residence uncovered ammunition, magazines, a shotgun, a rifle, a pistol, knives, tactical vests, a Nazi flag, gas masks and other sniper gear. A note on his phone also identified an East Lansing synagogue along with a date and a list of equipment, including hand-made pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails and various firearms.

"When free speech crosses a line and becomes a threat of violence against another, the full investigative resources of the FBI will be deployed," said Special Agent in Charge Cheyvoryea Gibson of the FBI in Michigan.

Pietila was taken into federal custody in June and has now admitted to the charge of transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce, the Justice Department said. The crime carries a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. As a convicted felon, Pietila can no longer possess firearms.

Pietila is scheduled to be sentenced on March 4, 2024.

The teenager's guilty plea comes as antisemiticIslamophobic and anti-Arab sentiments are rising in the U.S., an escalation marked by the start of the Israel-Hamas war last month. 

"No one should face violent threats because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or any other status" said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. "At this moment of increased threats across the nation, we renew our commitment to prevent, disrupt, and prosecute illegal acts of hate fueled by antisemitism, Islamophobia, or anti-Arab bias."


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