Keene Man Convicted of Extortion and Threat Offenses
CONCORD – Christopher C. Cantwell, 39, of Keene, was found guilty by a jury in federal court of extortion and threat charges, United States Attorney Scott W. Murray announced today.
During four days of trial testimony, the jury was presented with evidence that Cantwell maintained an active online presence, including operating a website and an internet call-in program. Evidence at trial showed that Cantwell believed that members of an online group called the “Bowl Patrol” had been harassing him online. Cantwell contacted the victim in this case seeking to obtain identifying information about the leader of the Bowl Patrol, an individual who used the name “Vic Mackey.”
When the victim did not disclose the information Cantwell sought, on June 16, 2019, Cantwell sent an electronic message through the Telegram messaging application, stating, “So if you don’t want me to come and f*ck your wife in front of your kids, then you should make yourself scarce[.] Give me Vic, it’s your only out.”
Between June 15, 2019, and June 17, 2019, Cantwell also sent a series of messages to the victim in which he threatened to injure the victim’s reputation by posting identifying information about the victim online (commonly referred to as “doxing”) and reporting the victim to child protection authorities if he did not receive information about “Vic Mackey.” Evidence presented at trial showed that Cantwell did “dox” the victim on June 17, 2019, by posting identifying information and photographs related to the victim and the victim’s family online. Cantwell also called child protection authorities in Missouri and made a report about the victim.
Cantwell was convicted of one count of transmitting extortionate communications and one count of threatening to injure property or reputation. The jury found Cantwell not guilty of cyberstalking. Cantwell, who has been in custody since his arrest on January 23, 2020, is scheduled to be sentenced on January 4, 2021.
The jury began deliberating on Friday afternoon and returned its verdict this morning.
“Sending threatening and extortionate messages over the internet can instill fear and emotional damage,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “I am grateful to the jury for weighing the evidence in this case and finding that this defendant’s disturbing conduct was unlawful. I also want to express my appreciation to the FBI and our other law enforcement partners for their work investigating this case. This conviction should send a message to all those who use the internet as a means to threaten others that their unlawful conduct will not be tolerated.”
“Safeguarding the civil liberties every American is entitled to, regardless of their beliefs, is fundamental to the FBI’s mission. But when freedom of speech is weaponized, and threats are made, a line must be drawn where individuals like Christopher Cantwell will not be allowed to cross,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “We thank the jury for its prudent verdicts, and for recognizing that it’s also our sworn responsibility to protect every citizen from harm.”
This trial was the second federal jury trial to take place in the District of New Hampshire since the pandemic caused a temporary delay in federal court proceedings in New Hampshire. The court conducted the trial using a variety of health and safety precautions. For example, all participants in the trial wore masks and maintained social distancing.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the New Hampshire State Police, Keene Police Department, and the Manchester Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John S. Davis and Anna Krasinski.