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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 24, 2018

Atlanta Man Who Threatened Charlottesville Schools Arrested, Facing Federal Charges

Threats Resulted in Modified Lockdown for All Schools in Charlottesville

Charlottesville, VIRGINIA – An Atlanta man has been charged with posting threatening messages against Charlottesville schools that caused all schools within the City of Charlottesville to go into a modified lockdown for two days in October 2017, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and Adam S. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division announced.

Michael Anthony Townes, 48, of Atlanta, was arrested May 20, 2018 in Georgia and charged in a federal criminal complaint with one count of transmitting in interstate commerce a communication containing a threat to injure the person of another. Townes will be transferred to the Western District of Virginia where he will have his initial court appearance in the near future.

“The defendant’s alleged threats terrified students, parents, teachers, and administrators and triggered an immediate response by our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated.  “We are grateful to the FBI for coordinating this rapid response and ensuring the safety of the local community.  As this and other recent cases indicate, the U.S. Attorney’s Office takes these types of threats seriously and will respond accordingly.”  

“The FBI stands with our schools and will vigorously investigate threats made to them – whether legitimate or a hoax.  Law enforcement and other first responders have some of the most difficult jobs in our society. They encounter danger every day and keep our communities safe from violence and injury.  To spread panic and fear through hoax threats to our schools – at this moment, while our nation mourns its many recent mass shooting victims – and encumber the limited resources of our first responders, is truly despicable.  It’s not cute.  It’s not funny and it will land you in jail,” Special Agent in Charge Lee said today.

According to the complaint and affidavit filed in the case, Townes, using the user name “mike” posted several comments in reply to a Yahoo! News story entitled “Police Issue Warrant for Black Man Beaten by White Supremacists in Charlottesville.”

Among the comments alleged posted by Townes was:

“@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 schools entered a modified lockdown with police presence at all schools on October 11 and 12,2017.

The investigation of the case was conducted by 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.

A criminal complaint is only a charge and not evidence of guilt.  The defendant is entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated May 24, 2018