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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Atlanta Man Sentenced for Threatening Charlottesville-Area Schools

October 2017 Threats Resulted in Modified Lockdown Charlottesville City Schools

Charlottesville, VIRGINIA – A federal judge here sentenced an Atlanta man today to 12 months and one-day in federal prison as a result of his October 2017 posting of threatening messages against Charlottesville-area schools that caused Charlottesville City Schools to go into a modified lockdown for two days, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced.

Michael Anthony Townes, 48, was arrested May 20, 2018 in Georgia via a federal criminal complaint. On August 20, 2018, he pled guilty to a felony indictment of one count of making threats to injure another person sent in interstate commerce.

“The defendant’s threatening communications terrified students, parents, and teachers in the Charlottesville community,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today.  “I am grateful for the diligence and hard work of the FBI in finding this defendant and bringing him to justice.  As this and other recent cases illustrate, the Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who use the Internet and social media to threaten violence against any individual or group.  This type of activity is not protected by the First Amendment, and those who engage in it will be held accountable.”

According to a statement of facts signed by the defendant and filed with the court by Special Assistant United States Attorney Rachel Swartz, on or about October 10, 2017, Townes, while physically located in Atlanta, Georgia, posted a series of comments on the internet site Yahoo News. Those comments included but were not limited to:

“@Terry not until I pull off a copycat of vegas in charloettsville [sic] va at a all white charter school..It should’t be hard to find one…”

“Im thinking of a copycat to vegas in Charloettsville (sic) va is going to happened (sic)…Im thinking maybe a school this time though!”

In response to the postings, Charlottesville City Schools operated under a modified lockdown for two consecutive days, with increased police presence at all area schools on October 11 and 12,2017.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Charlottesville City Police Department. Special Assistant United States Attorney Rachel Barish Swartz and Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh will prosecute the case for the United States.

Cyber Crime
Updated November 13, 2018