Michigan Man Sentenced for Threats Against Jews

(AP/Hamodia) —
Shaarey Zedek congregation in East Lansing.

A 20-year-old Michigan man who admitted using social media to make violent threats against Jewish people was sentenced Monday to a year and a day in prison, far short of what prosecutors had recommended.

A sentence exceeding a year makes someone eligible for good conduct credits and a shorter stay in federal custody.

Seann Pietila, who has been locked up since June, was accused of using social media to spread neo-Nazi ideology, discuss plans to kill people, and praise mass shooters.

The 19-year-old Michigan man has been charged with threatening a mass killing at a Jewish center on the fifth anniversary of the massacre at two New Zealand mosques by a white supremacist gunman, federal officials said at his arrest in June.

Seann Patrick Pietila was arrested at the time and charged with transmitting a communication containing a threat to injure another, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Prosecutors say he planned to target the Shaarey Zedek congregation in East Lansing.

The investigation began with a tip that someone was making threats on social media to commit a mass killing, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

When FBI agents arrested Pietila, they found a cache of weapons, knives, tactical equipment, a red-and-white Nazi flag, and makeshift plans for killing members of the Shaarey Zedek congregation on March 15, 2024, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors had sought a prison sentence of nearly three years. But U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker settled on 366 days, along with $10,648 in restitution to the synagogue for security. Pietila will get credit for nearly nine months already spent in jail.

“The preponderance of the evidence supports the conclusion that [Pietila] started down a path of desiring to kill people because of their religion or race and was interrupted by law enforcement before he was able to act on his desire,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher O’Connor said in a court document.

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