Jury Finds Waterloo Man Guilty of Sending Threatening Tweets to United States Senator Joni K. Ernst
A man who sent threatening “tweets” on the Internet to United States Senator Joni K. Ernst was convicted by a jury today, after a one-day trial in federal court in Cedar Rapids.
Joseph Hilton Dierks, 34, from Waterloo, Iowa, was convicted of all three counts of sending threatening communications in interstate commerce. The verdict was returned around 1 p.m. today, following about five hours of jury deliberations.
The evidence at trial showed that, in August 2017, Dierks began sending Senator Ernst tweets from his Twitter account to her Twitter accounts. On August 13, 2017, Dierks sent Senator Ernst a tweet that stated, “I just want u to know I’d put a bullet in your head if u were my wife . . . not that I’ll ever have one,” with a link to a scene from the 2010 English-language French action film “From Paris with Love,” in which a man shoots a woman in the head and kills her. The United States Capitol Police in Washington, D.C. then contacted the Waterloo Police Department, which sent a law enforcement officer to Dierks’ home. Dierks promised the officer he would “tone it down” but, within 24 hours, Dierks began sending threatening tweets to the Senator. The jury found Dierks sent the following three threats to Senator Ernst on August 16, 2017:
“I’ll beat ur ass in front of ur widow I promise that”;
“I’ll f u up seriously in my sleep”; and
“@joniernst u r sn army bitch and I’ll @USMC u tf up :)(:”.
Witnesses testified at trial that defendant sent the threatening tweets to Senator Ernst because he wanted her to help him obtain an age-waiver to get into the military. The jury rejected the defendant’s argument that he was just an “Internet troll” who did not intend to threaten Senator Ernst and did not know that his tweets would be viewed as threatening. Trial evidence showed Dierks sent Senator Ernst other tweets, including “i want u to die sorry not sorry”; “I’ll flatline ur ass like @tendoublezero lol”; “@joniernst deserves death”; “i didn’t kill u cuz I have a message for u”; and “U were almost a widow . . . .”
Sentencing before United States District Court Judge Linda R. Reade will be set after a presentence report is prepared. Dierks remains in custody of the United States Marshal pending sentencing. Dierks faces a possible maximum sentence of fifteen years’ imprisonment, a $750,000 fine, $300 in special assessments, and nine years of supervised release following any imprisonment.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy L. Vavricek and Richard L. Murphy and was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the United States Capitol Police.
Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.
The case file number is 17-CR-2065-LRR.
Follow us on Twitter @USAO_NDIA.