Federal Bureau of Investigation nabs suspected troll behind U.S. journalist's epileptic seizure

Remigio Civitarese
Marzo 21, 2017

A Maryland man is facing charges after tweeting a GIF to a journalist that induced a seizure.

John Rivello, 29, was arrested Friday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in connection with sending a strobing GIF in a tweet last December to Dallas-based journalist Kurt Eichenwald, who has epilepsy.

The FBI has now arrested the alleged sender of that tweet, John Rayne Rivello, charging him with cyberstalking.

Soon after his fit, Eichenwald's wife, Dr Theresea Felicia Pearse, tweeted from her husband's account to inform Rivello his details had been sent to the police, prompting more trolls to send tweets created to provoke further fits.

This is the county assault indictment against the guy who caused me to have a seizure by tweeting a strobe at me.

A search warrant found that Rivello's Twitter account contained direct messages from Rivello's account to other Twitter users about the victim, including statements such as: "I hope this sends him into a seizure", "Spammed this at [victim] let's see if he dies", and "I know he has epilepsy".

Rivello, who is from Salisbury, Maryland, was initially charged with cyberstalking and appeared in federal court Friday.

"What Mr Rivello did with his Twitter message was no different from someone sending a bomb in the mail or sending an envelope filled with anthrax spores", the Eichenwald's attorney told Newsweek magazine.

The image was apparently sent in response to Eichenwald's outspoken criticism of then-President-elect Donald Trump.

He said identifying information about the people who sent him those strobe images is now "currently in the hands of the Federal Bureau of Investigation". Fortunately, since I was standing, I simply dropped my iPad to the ground the second I realized what Mike had done. The Epilepsy Foundation estimates that certain visual patterns and flashing lights can trigger seizures in about 3% of people with epilepsy.

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