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A Michigan man pleaded guilty Monday and admitted to using social media to make violent threats against Jewish people last summer.
Seann Pietila, 19, was accused of spreading neo-Nazi views, posting praise on Instagram for mass shooters and discussing plans to attack Jewish people and then post the footage on the internet. He has been in custody since June.
According to the FBI, he had information about the Shaarey Zedek Congregation in East Lansing, near Michigan State University, and a 2024 date in a note on his cellphone.
A screengrab provided by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan shows a list of weapons “me and Limey” would take to the synagogue on March 15, 2024.
Pietila told another Instagram user he wanted to “inspire others to take arms against the Jewish controlled state.”
FBI investigators later found “a cache of weapons, knives, tactical equipment and a red-and-white Nazi flag” at his Pickford home, according to the Associated Press.
“Thank God that we were in a situation where we prevented a possible atrocity rather than being in a situation to respond to one,” U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said Monday outside federal court in Grand Rapids.
Pietila pleaded guilty to transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Additionally, as a convicted felon, he may no longer possess any firearms.
He will be sentenced in March.
“This is a tense moment because of the situation that is happening overseas,” Totten said. “We will show zero tolerance for hate-fueled acts of violence and threats of violence against anybody based on their race, their ethnicity, their religion.”
Pietila’s guilty plea comes more than a month after Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel and the ensuing retaliatory strikes on Gaza which have both prompted an uptick in bias incidents, including vandalism, threats and hate crimes, against Jews, Muslims and other groups in the U.S. and around the world.