LOS ANGELES — A 33-year-old Norwalk, Calif., man who in late June 2018 was arrested and charged with sending death threats to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that targeted his family is heading to prison for nearly two years.
The Department of Justice‘s U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia late Friday announced that Markara Man had been sentenced “than one and a half years in prison” for threatening to kill the family of Pai, who became Chairman of the Commission following the election of President Trump and has embarked on a “light-touch” regulatory approach fueled by the American Enterprise Institute, a GOP think tank in Washington charged with leading Trump’s FCC transition team following his election.
Man was arrested in Los Angeles some 11 months ago after admitting to federal officials that three emailed threats against Pai’s family were sent by him in December 2017 in an “angry” reaction about the Commission’s successful efforts to remove Title II classification of broadband internet access.
The end of “net neutrality” and its portend led thousands to flood the FCC with comments in opposition of the move. But, Man went a step further in seeking to frighten Pai following the affirmative 3-1 vote to change a rule put in place under the leadership of former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.
“Threatening to actually kill a federal official’s family because of a disagreement over policy is not only inexcusable, it is criminal,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This prosecution shows not only that we take criminal threats seriously, but also that online threats of violence have real world consequences.”
The first e-mail sent by Man accused Chairman Pai of being responsible for a child who allegedly had committed suicide because of the repeal of net neutrality regulations. The second e-mail listed three locations in or around Arlington, Va., and threatened to kill the Chairman’s family members. The third e-mail had no message in its body but included an image depicting Chairman Pai and, in the foreground and slightly out of focus, a framed photograph of Chairman Pai and his family. The FBI traced the emails to Man’s residence in Norwalk, south of downtown L.A. When initially confronted in May 2018, Man admitted to the FBI that he sent the e-mail threatening Chairman Pai’s family.
Court documents further showed that during the FBI’s search of his residence, Man factory-reset a cell phone upon learning of the search and before law enforcement could seize the phone. This action caused data to be wiped from the device. When asked about the phone being in setup mode, Man lied to the FBI and claimed that he had received it a month earlier and not set it up yet.
The matter was investigated by the Washington Field Office’s Safe Streets Violent Crime Task Force, which is composed of Special Agents and detectives from law enforcement agencies within northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. The task force concentrates on investigating violent crimes and criminal threats within the Capital Region.
Explaining his actions, Man is reported to have said, “They pretty much ignored, like, 80 percent of comments. They ignored us and just didn’t care.”
The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, the Federal Protective Service, and the Arlington County Police Department provided significant assistance in this investigation.
— Archived reporting by Adam R Jacobson