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Michigan Man Sentenced to Prison for Making Threats Against Jewish People and Synagogue

Michigan man sentenced to year and day in federal pen for posting anti-Jewish threats on social media.

PICKFORD, MI – Seann Patrick Pietila received his sentence in November after pleading guilty to one count of interstate or foreign commerce of a threat made through social media messages to a person outside of Michigan.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the western district of Michigan said that in his messages, Pietila expressed sympathy for neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, and mass shooters in the past.

“Today and every day, we will take swift and decisive action to prevent and respond to hate crimes, Attorney Mark Totten stated in a statement. He added that no Michigander should be subjected to discrimination based on their race, ethnic origin, religion, or protected status.”

In addition to the prison term, Pietila was sentenced to pay restitution totaling over $10,600 and was placed on supervised release for three years after his release.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a sentence of almost three years in prison. The state Federal Public Defender’s office argued that Pietila had no criminal history and was remorseful.

Wanted to capture assault on camera and upload it online.

According to court documents, Pietila admitted to communicating with a person via social media platform Instagram in June of 2023 with the intent to “murder or injure Jewish individuals” and to use a video camera to “broadcast his attack online” in hopes of “other individuals recording the attack and sharing it with others.”

He also posted anti-Semitic material and Adolf Hitler references, as well as plans to carry out a mass shooting “similar to that of a past mass shooter,” according to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office.

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Pietila had been living in Lansing at the time of the threats in the summer of last year, but he was in the U.P. when the FBI executed a search warrant at his home in the early-to-mid-to-late-August of this year. During the search, investigators discovered a cache of firearms, a variety of knives, tactical gear and a red and white Nazi flag, according to the FBI.

According to the FBI, Pietila also wrote the name of the congregation on his phone, which is located in East Lansing, Michigan, not far from Michigan State University. The note included a 2024 date. The FBI said Pietila’s actions were “disturbing” to the community and caused fear among members of the congregation, which stepped up its security measures after the threats surfaced last summer.

We do it one day at a time,” Pietila wrote in an online chat room, according to the charges. “We would certainly encourage others to take up arms against the jewish-controlled state.”

Pietila did not send the note to any of his friends or post it on social media, according to his attorney, Sean Tilton. According to the State Federal Public Defender’s office, “Pietila has a history of mental illness and only had access to one of the firearms listed in the note that was found in his phone.”

Incident Happened Amidst a Surge in Antisemitic Incidents Nationwide

Pietila’s case came at a time when anti-Semitic incidents were on the rise across the country.

Antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high of 3,697 nationwide in 2022, according to a report released by the anti-Defamation league (ADL). That’s a 36% rise from the previous year, when the ADL reported just over 2,700 incidents. According to the ADL, this was the highest year-on-year figure since 1979, when the organization began monitoring antisemitism.

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According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there have been more than 3,300 reports of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim hate crimes since the October 7, 2022, attacks. The ADL’s most recent data for the period from October 7, 2022 to January 7, 2024 shows that there were almost 3,300 reported anti-Semitic incidents.

“This represents a 361-percent increase compared to the same period one year prior, which saw 712 incidents,” the ADL said in a January press release.

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