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Press Release

Antisemitic Threats To Kill Yield Prison Sentence

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that Sean Pietila, 20, of Pickford, Michigan was sentenced to 12 months and one day in federal prison for making a series of violent threats on June 1-2, 2023, to kill Jewish people. At the time he communicated those threats, Pietila was living in Lansing, Michigan. Evidence recovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicated that Pietila had identified a Jewish synagogue in East Lansing and a specific date in March 2024, and made a wish list of firearms and other weapons.                                                        

          “Today and every day we will take swift action to detect and disrupt hate crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “No Michigander should live in fear because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or any other protected status. I’m incredibly grateful to FBI Michigan and our other law enforcement partners for their diligence and dedication.”       

          In November 2023, Pietila pleaded guilty to sending numerous messages containing threats to kill others to an Instagram user located outside of Michigan. Those messages, which included references to Adolf Hitler and antisemitic language, talked of Pietila’s desire and plans to engage in a mass shooting in a manner similar to a specific past mass shooter. During execution of a federal search warrant in June 2023, the FBI found typed notes in Pietila’s cell phone that indicated plans to engage in a mass shooting and to commit suicide. For his actions, United States District Judge Robert Jonker sentenced Pietila to serve 12 months and one day in prison, 3 years of supervised release following incarceration, and pay $10,648 in restitution.

          “I am incredibly proud of the work of our office and appreciative of the collaborative efforts of our law enforcement partners in bringing the defendant to justice,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “There is absolutely no tolerance for threats of violence and intimidation in the state of Michigan and in our society. The FBI will vigorously pursue those who commit these actions.”

          The case was investigated by the FBI with assistance from the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office, TRI-County Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT), Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET), and Michigan State Police Emergency Services Team. Assistant United States Attorney Chris O’Connor prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.


Updated March 4, 2024

Civil Rights
Hate Crimes