April 11, 2019 / 8:03 PM / 8 months ago

Pennsylvania man charged with posting online hate messages

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania man has been charged by federal prosecutors with posting online hate messages and threats, including a digitally created image that appeared to show himself pointing an AR-15 rifle at a congregation of Jewish men.

Corbin Kauffman, 30, of Lehighton, Pennsylvania, is accused of using online aliases to post hundreds of anti-Semitic, anti-black and anti-Muslim messages and images on Minds.com, a social media network, according to David Freed, the U.S. attorney in Harrisburg.

“Pennsylvanians know all too well how dangerous these kinds of white supremacist threats can be,” Freed said in a statement, referring to the Oct.27, 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. “We take these threats seriously.”

The Pennsylvania Legislature on Wednesday held a special joint session to mourn the 11 Jewish victims of the Tree of Life shootings. It was the first special joint session since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Other online posts by Kauffman allegedly expressed a desire to commit genocide and hate crimes, including the killing of Jews, blacks, and Muslims.

Freed said the suspect posted images of anti-Semitic vandalism in Ocean City, Maryland, including the defacement of a display case at a Jewish community center.

Kauffman’s lawyer, Christopher Opiel of Wilkes-Barre, said he would have no comment at this time.

Minds.com, founded in 2015 as an alternative to Facebook, could not be reached for comment.

“Our core values are rooted in privacy, transparency, and Internet freedom,” the company says on its website.

Kauffman is charged with a single count of interstate transmission of threats to injure another person, the U.S. Justice Department said. The maximum penalty is five years in prison and a fine.

“While the FBI does not and will not police ideology, we stand ready to intervene whenever threatening language crosses the line into illegal activity,” said Michael Harpster, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Philadelphia.

Opiel said his client was free on “pre-trial release.” A federal magistrate ordered him not to use the Internet in any form while he awaited trial.

Reporting by David DeKok in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Editing by Frank McGurty and Dan Grebler

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