The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday announced federal charges against a Florida man officials said made racist threats targeting the co-founder of a local Black Lives Matter chapter intending to run for city council in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Daniel McMahon, 31, was arrested and charged on four counts, including willful interference with a candidate for elective office, threats to injure in interstate commerce and cyberstalking. According to the feds, McMahon, who has white nationalist ties, targeted BLM activist Don Gathers because of his race and because he was running for public office.
Gathers, an African-American faith leader, had planned to formally announce his bid for city council on Jan. 8, 2019. He postponed the campaign, however, after receiving threatening messages from McMahon on social media the day before.
Federal officials now accuse McMahon of attempting to “disrupt the American political process” by making threats intended to harm and intimidate Gathers, who they said feared for his life.
“As alleged [in] the indictment, this defendant was motivated by racial animus and used his social-media accounts to threaten and intimidate a potential candidate for elective office,” U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen said in a statement. “Although the First Amendment protects an individual’s right to broadcast hateful views online, it does not give license to threats of violence or bodily harm.
“We will continue to prioritize cyber-threat cases, including those giving rise to civil rights violations,” he added.
As reported by HuffPo, McMahon frequented chat sites popular among white supremacists and spread hate online using the pseudonyms “Jack Corbin” and “Pale Horse.” The Southern Poverty Law Center also found that McMahon was in frequent communication with fellow bigot Robert Bowers on a social platform called Gab. Bowers was arrested late last year after committing a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, leaving 11 worshipers dead.
As the community mourned, McMahon cheered the deadly attack and said Bowers had “more balls” than most other white nationalists, according to HuffPo. The defendant also spewed xenophobic rhetoric and once wrote that immigrants deserved to be treated “like the cockroaches” they are.
Gathers, who chaired Charlottesville’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces, had suggested renaming parks and other public spaces that featured Confederate statues honoring Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
The council would later vote to relocate the Lee statute, a move that sparked the deadly “Unite the Right” rally of 2017.