A man who threatened to kill the children of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday.
Markara Man, a 33-year-old man from California, “faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 7” at US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Associated Press reported.
Man sent threatening emails to Pai days after the December 2017 vote to repeal net neutrality rules, according to an FBI affidavit. One included the names and addresses of three preschools in or around Arlington, Virginia, and said, “I will find your children and I will kill them.”
The messages were sent from a Gmail address. Google provided the FBI with an IP address that had been used by the account. The FBI was able to tie the IP address to Man by obtaining records from Internet provider Frontier Communications.
In May of this year, federal law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Man’s residence and interviewed him. During the interview, Man acknowledged sending the threatening emails to Pai because of his frustration over the net neutrality repeal, according to the affidavit.
“Man stated that he was ‘angry’ about the Official Action because ‘they pretty much ignored, like, 80 percent of comments… they ignored us, and just didn’t care,'” the FBI affidavit said. “Asked whether he sent the email in an effort to scare Federal Official 1, Man responded, ‘pretty much.’ Man also was asked if, at the time of his conduct, he thought his plan would work, and he stated he ‘was not really thinking’ and was ‘just angry and frustrated.'”
Man asks for release, citing mental illness
Man’s attorney wrote in a court filing that his actions “appear to be the product of his mental illness and are also aberrant… Mr. Man is being successfully treated while on release, pursuant to the terms in place. He has plead[ed] guilty at the earliest opportunity and has accepted responsibility for his crime.”
Man’s attorney asked the court to release him pending sentencing, saying he “is not a danger or a flight risk.”
The US Attorney’s office in Virginia opposed the motion for bail pending sentencing.
“Incarceration is, by its very nature, a hardship, and neither the defendant’s mental health status nor the nature of his conviction is rare or uncommon, particularly when compared to other offenders,” the government wrote.
The government brief also said:
On or about December 20, 2017, the Defendant Markara Man, in response to the repeal of net neutrality regulations, sent an email message to the Federal Communications Commission Chairman threatening to “find” and “kill” the FCC Chairman’s children. That was a choice the Defendant made, and it carried the attendant risk of incarceration; an outcome that the Defendant now seeks to delay at least until sentencing. Yet, threatening to murder the children of a federal official for purposes of intimidation, interference, and retaliation is a crime of violence for which detention pending sentencing is mandatory unless exceptional reasons for release are established by clear and convincing evidence.
Pai issued a statement today on the guilty plea. “I would like to thank the US Department of Justice, the FBI, local law enforcement, and FCC security officials for their hard work protecting my family and me,” Pai said. “I am deeply grateful for all they have done to keep us safe.”
In a separate incident, a bomb threat forced the FCC to temporarily suspend its meeting on the day it repealed net neutrality.