- The Epilepsy Foundation filed criminal complaints outlining an attack that allowed posts on its Twitter feed designed to trigger seizures in people with epilepsy.
- The attacks are similar to one in 2016 on journalist Kurt Eichenwald, who had a seizure when he was sent a message on Twitter that contained a strobe light GIF after he had been openly critical of Donald Trump.
- Eichenwald’s alleged attacker was set to appear in court Monday, but the case was pushed to January. He is still expected to plead guilty to aggravated assault, and the case is likely to set a landmark precedent.
Epilepsy Foundation Cyberattack
The Epilepsy Foundation announced Monday that it filed criminal complaints “outlining a series of attacks on its Twitter feed designed to trigger seizure(s) in people with epilepsy” by posting videos and GIFs that included flashing lights.
“The attacks, which used the Foundation’s Twitter handle and hashtags to post flashing or strobing lights, deliberately targeted the feed during National Epilepsy Awareness Month when the greatest number of people with epilepsy and seizures were likely to be following the feed,” the statement continued.
While it is currently unclear how many people saw or clicked on the GIFs or videos, the foundation’s Twitter account currently has more than 33,000 followers.
According to reports, the foundation reported 30 attacks in the first week of November.
The foundation’s statement also said that the attacks they received were similar to attacks involving a man named Kurt Eichenwald.
Kurt Eichenwald’s Story
Eichenwald is a prominent journalist and author who has been open about the fact that he has epilepsy.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, he had been openly critical of then-candidate Donald Trump both in articles he wrote and posts he made on Twitter.
In December 2016, Eichenwald opened a message on Twitter that contained a strobe light GIF and the words: “YOU DESERVE A SEIZURE FOR YOUR POSTS.”
The GIF immediately caused him to have a seizure. Eichenwald has since said that he would have died if his wife did not find him.
Investigators looked into the attack and the user who sent it, who had the Twitter handle @jew_goldstein. They were eventually able to track the account to a man named John Rivello, who was eventually arrested in March 2017 and charged with the attack.
According to court records, investigators found that Rivello had sent several messages to other users hours before Eichenwald’s attack, including one where he wrote, “I hope this sends him into a seizure” and others where he said “Let’s see if he dies,” and “I know he has epilepsy.”
The court records also said that investigators found a screenshot on Rivello’s iCloud account that showed an edited Wikipedia page for Eichenwald that listed his death date as the day after he received the GIF.
The page also “included some anti-Semitic references” the court documents said. Eichenwald’s father is Jewish.
Eichenwald filed a federal civil lawsuit against Rivello in Maryland, where Rivello lives, and a criminal case in Texas, where Eichenwald lives. The suits accuse Rivello of battery and other charges, including hate-crime enhancement.
After Rivello was arrested, a group of neo-Nazis reportedly came to his defense and started a fundraiser to pay for his legal fees. That group has also argued that the issue at hand is freedom of speech.
While legal experts believe that argument will not hold up in court, the case is still believed to be an important testing ground for the legal limits of free speech and cyber attacks.
Rivello’s lawyers also moved to dismiss the battery claim on the grounds that there was no physical contact. Eichenwald’s lawyer, Steven Lieberman, argued that it was still battery because it still had a physical effect.
“This is an issue of an assault using a new sort of technology,” he said.
Chief Judge James K. Bredar of the U.S. District Court in the District of Maryland who was overseeing the case ultimately agreed with Lieberman, and let the case proceed.
In his decision, Judge Bredar wrote that the “novelty of the mechanism by which the harm was achieved” did not make the actions any less harmful.
Rivello was set to appear in a Dallas County district court on Monday, but at the last minute, the proceedings were rescheduled to Jan. 31. According to reports, Rivello is still expected to plead guilty to aggravated assault.
The timing here is significant. Eichenwald’s case has been widely described as the first— or at least one of the first— of its kind, and is an important test case for these kinds of attacks.
That is also relevant because the Epilepsy Foundation announced its criminal charges involving similar attacks the day that the sentence was supposed to be handed down, which makes it clear that they will use this case as a precedent in court moving forward— as will others.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (ZDNet)
Derek Chauvin and 3 Others Ex-Officers Indicted on Civil Rights Charges Over George Floyd’s Death
- The Justice Department filed federal criminal charges Friday against Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers after a grand jury indicted them for violating the civil rights of George Floyd.
- The indictment charges Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao for violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force. All three, as well as Thomas Lane, were also charged with failing to provide medical care to Floyd.
- Chauvin was additionally hit with two counts in a separate indictment, which claims he violated the civil rights of a 14-year-old boy who he allegedly held by the neck and repeatedly beat with a flashlight during a 2017 arrest.
- Chauvin was already convicted last month of murder and manslaughter over Floyd’s death, which Kueng, Lane, and Thao were previously charged for allegedly aiding and abetting.
Former Minneapolis Officers Hit With Federal Charges
A federal grand jury indicted Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers for violating George Floyd’s civil rights during the arrest that lead to his death last summer, the Justice Department announced Friday.
Chauvin, specifically, was charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer. Ex-officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were indicted for willfully failing to intervene in Chauvin’s unreasonable use of force.
All three men, as well as former officer Thomas Lane, face charges for failing to provide medical care to Floyd, “thereby acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm to Floyd,” according to the indictment.
In a second, separate indictment, Chauvin was hit with two counts of civil rights violations related to the arrest of a 14-year-old boy in September 2017. During that incident, Chauvin allegedly held the boy by the neck and hit him with a flashlight repeatedly.
The announcement, which follows a months-long investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, comes just over two weeks after Chauvin was found guilty of three state charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
He is currently awaiting his June 25 sentencing in a maximum-security prison.
Kueng, Lane, and Thao all face state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Kueng and Lane were the first officers to responded to a call from a convenience store employee who claimed that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill. Body camera footage showed Floyd sitting in the car and Lane drawing his gun as the officers ordered him out and handcuffed him.
Floyd can be heard pleading with the officers not to shoot him.
Shortly after, Chauvin and Thao arrived, and the footage shows Chauvin joining the other officers in their attempt to put Floyd into the back of a police car. In the struggle, the officers forced Floyd to the ground, with Chauvin kneeling on his neck while Kueng and Lane held his back and legs.
Meanwhile, in cellphone footage taken at the scene, Thao can be seen ordering bystanders to stay away, and later preventing a Minneapolis firefighter from giving Floyd medical aid.
Their trial is set to begin in late August, and all three are free on bond. The new federal charges, however, will likely be more difficult to prove.
According to legal experts, prosecutors will have to show beyond reasonable doubt that the officers knew that they were depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights but continued to do so anyway.
The high legal standard is also hard to establish, as officers can easily claim they acted out of fear or even poor judgment.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)
Caitlyn Jenner Says Her Friends Are Fleeing California Because of the Homeless Population
- California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner sparked outrage after an interview with Sean Hannity on Wednesday that was filmed from her Malibu airplane hangar.
- “My friends are leaving California,” she said. “My hangar, the guy right across, he was packing up his hangar and I said, ‘Where are you going?’ And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’”
- Many criticized Jenner for sounding out of touch and unsympathetic to real issues in California and suggested that she prioritize helping the homeless population rather than incredibly wealthy state residents.
Caitlyn Jenner’s Remarks
California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner sparked outrage on Wednesday after suggesting that wealthy people are fleeing the state because of its homeless population.
Jenner sat down for an interview in her Malibu airplane hangar with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Jenner is one of the handful of Republicans aiming to unseat current Governor Gavin Newsom in a recall election in the fall. While polls show that most Californians do not support recalling Newsom, the conservative-led movement to do so gained enough signatures to land on the ballot.
“My friends are leaving California,” Jenner claimed during the interview. “My hangar, the guy right across, he was packing up his hangar and I said, ‘where are you going?’ And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona, I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’”
“I don’t want to leave,” she continued. “Either I stay and fight, or I get out of here.”
Jenner’s Remarks Prompt Backlash
Her remarks were criticized online by people who thought Jenner sounded unsympathetic and out of touch to the real issues in the state. Many found it hypocritical that Jenner has slammed Newsom for being elite but was so concerned for wealthy people who don’t like having to see unhoused residents on the street.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Ca.) called Jenner out on Twitter for seemingly fighting for a small percentage of Californians.
“Unlike you, Dems are focused on the 99% of people who don’t own planes or hangars,” he wrote. “And you know what’s going to help reduce homelessness? The #AmericanRescuePlan, which your party opposed.”
Others suggested she prioritize directly addressing the homeless situation.
“If you don’t like the homeless situation, instead of hiding in your PRIVATE PLANE HANGAR, your campaign should be about helping them,” actress Merrin Dungey said. “They don’t like their situation either. Your lifelong privilege is showing. It’s not a good color.”
Jenner, an Olympic gold medalist and reality star, is one of the most prominent transgender Americans. Because homelessness is such a common issue within the trans community, some were frustrated she was not using her campaign to fix the situation, and rather used it to complain about how it impacted her wealthy friends.
See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Politico) (Washington Post)
Derek Chauvin Seeks New Trial In George Floyd Murder Case
- A lawyer for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, filed a motion Tuesday for a new trial.
- Among other complaints about Chauvin’s conviction, the attorney cited “prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law.”
- He also claimed the court “abused its discretion” by not granting a change of venue or sequestering the jury for the duration of the trial, arguing that publicity before and during it threatened its fairness.
- John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, told CNN, “The court has already rejected many of these arguments and the State will vigorously oppose them.”
Derek Chauvin’s Attorney Files Motion for New Trial
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is officially asking for a new trial, hoping to overturn his conviction for the murder of George Floyd.
His attorney, Eric Nelson, filed court paperwork Tuesday laying out a number of errors he believes were made during Chauvin’s legal proceedings that violated his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial. Nelson cited alleged issues, including, “prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law.”
The filing did not cite any specific examples of jury misconduct, but Nelson also argued that the court “abused its discretion” by not granting a change of venue or sequestering the jury for the duration of the trial.
The court proceedings took place in the same city where Floyd was killed and where protesters drew national attention by calling for justice in his name. As a result, Nelson claimed that publicity before and during the trial threatened its fairness. He also argued that a defense expert witness was intimidated after he testified, but before the jury deliberated.
His filing asks for a hearing to impeach the guilty verdict, in part, on the grounds that the 12 jurors “felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings, and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations.”
It’s unclear exactly what will come of this request, but John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, told CNN, “The court has already rejected many of these arguments and the State will vigorously oppose them.”
For instance, a judge previously denied Chauvin’s request to move the trial in March, saying, “I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case.”