LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — A 19-year-old from the Upper Peninsula has pleaded guilty to a federal charge related to violent, antisemitic threats he made online, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan announced Monday.
Seann Pietila, 19, of Pickford, entered a plea of guilty to transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce. He admitted to sending multiple messages on Instagram about planning to commit a mass shooting targeting Jewish people, U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said.
Pietal allegedly communicated with others on Instagram, discussing his plans to kill people, specifically referencing Jewish people, and livestream the attack.
According to the U.S. Attorney, those online communications demonstrated sympathy with neo-Nazi ideology, antisemitism and past mass shooters, including the 2019 Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shooter.
“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 Totten said in a live-streamed statement on Facebook Monday.
Law enforcement officers searched Pietila’s home, seizing items including ammunition, magazines, a shotgun, a rifle, a pistol, various knives, firearms accessories, tactical vests, a mask, a Nazi flag, a ghillie suit, gas masks and military sniper/survival manuals. A note found on his phone identified Congregation Shaarey Zedek in East Lansing, along with the date of March 14, 2024, and a list of equipment.
The maximum penalty for the charge against Pietila is five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Pietila’s sentencing will take place at 10 a.m. March 4.
The FBI is asking the public to report suspicious or threatening behavior to local law enforcement or call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or submit a tip online.
“When free speech crosses a line and becomes a threat of violence against another, the full investigative resources of the FBI will be deployed,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan.