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Press Release

New York City Man Charged With Threatening To Kill Current And Former Elected Officials

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Audrey Strauss, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea, announced that RICKEY JOHNSON, a/k/a “Nigel Dawn Defarren,” was arrested last night based on a criminal Complaint filed in Manhattan federal court charging JOHNSON with making threatening interstate communications and threatening United States officials.  JOHNSON allegedly posted public videos on Instagram in which he threatened to kill a United States Senator, a member of the United States House of Representatives, other current and former elected officials, and several cable news broadcasters. JOHNSON will be presented before United States Magistrate Gabriel W. Gorenstein in Manhattan federal court today.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “Rickey Johnson allegedly threatened to kill several cable news broadcasters and current and former U.S. Senators and members of the House in rage-fueled posts on Instagram and in chilling private messages.  Among the many great freedoms Americans enjoy is the right to engage in political discourse, and disagreements are natural and healthy; but when invective metastasizes into threats of harm or even death, law enforcement will act swiftly to bring the person responsible to justice.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said:  “Rickey Johnson, as alleged in this federal complaint, took aim at the foundations of our shared democracy and way of life, threatening not only elected United States officials but several working journalists. From the earliest stages of this investigation, the NYPD Intelligence Bureau and our partners in the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York worked closely to make sure this individual would be brought to justice.”

As alleged in the Complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court[1]:

On January 30, 2021, JOHNSON sent a private message to a cable news broadcaster that threatened, “you will all be held accountable . . . you will be killed.”  JOHNSON’s message threatened by name two additional broadcasters.  On February 3, 2021, JOHNSON posted public messages in which he stated that he intended to “kill” two of the same broadcasters.

On February 4, 2021, JOHNSON posted public messages threatening, among others, a United States Senator, a member of the United States House of Representatives, a former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and a governor.  For example, JOHNSON declared that the Senator was “dead” and would be “executed,” that JOHNSON was “going to kill” the Representative, and that the governor “will be executed” and “will be killed.”  In a public post directed principally at the former Speaker, JOHNSON stated: “I am going to kill you.  I’m gonna kill all of you.”

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RICKEY JOHNSON, 47, of New York, New York, is charged with making threatening interstate communications, which carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, and threatening United States officials, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment.  The maximum potential penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the NYPD, the NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau, Leads Investigation Unit, and the NYPD’s 23rd Precinct Field Intelligence Team. 

The case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew J. DeFilippis and Patrick R. Moroney are in charge of the prosecution.

The charge contained in the Complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described herein should be treated as an allegation.


Nicholas Biase, Jim Margolin
(212) 637-2600

Updated February 12, 2021

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 21-027