By Robert Foster
In an unprecedented case, a Texas grand jury has indicted a man accused of using an animated GIF to cause Newsweek journalist Kurt Eichenwald to suffer a seizure. This case is the first of its kind to legally consider a GIF a “deadly assault weapon.”
According to the Department of Justice, John Rivello sent Eichenwald, who suffers from epilepsy, a GIF via Twitter containing an embedded animated strobe image with the comment “You deserve a seizure for your post.”
The tweet was made by Rivello following an appearance by Eichenwald on FOX News discussing a claim against President Trump.
Rivello was arrested in Maryland on Friday and charged with violating a federal cyberstalking law. On Monday, he was charged with one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon along with a hate crime enhancement due to anti-Semitic bias related to the crime.
Tor Ekeland, a defense attorney, reported to NBC News that this case is believed to be the first time anyone has been charged with using “the Internet as a weapon that causes physical harm.”
According to reports filed, Eichenwald’s seizure lasted about eight minutes, causing “a complete loss of his bodily functions and mental faculty.” For several months afterward, he still suffered bodily and mental impairment and is now more vulnerable to future seizures because of this event.