Who knew a GIF could ever become a “deadly weapon”, at least that is what a Texas Grand Jury has concluded. In a bizarre series of events, John Rayne Rivello, a man from Salisbury, Maryland in the U.S. has been accused of intentionally Tweeting a flashing GIF to Newsweek Journalist Kurt Eichenwald, provoking an epileptic seizure.
As a result, Indictments issued by The U.S Department of Justice and a Dallas Grand Jury state that a GIF can be counted as a “deadly weapon.” The GIF in question was classified as an assault weapon used to cause harm to Eichenwald intentionally. The accused Rivello had threatened Eichenwald on earlier occasions through Tweets and messages.
Finally in December, Rivello posed as one “Ari Goldstein” using Twitter handle @jew_goldstein and Tweeted out a flashing GIF to Eichenwald, with an accompanying message saying, “ “You deserve a seizure for your post.” This, after Eichenwald had publicly written about his condition.
FBI investigators found that after Rivello Tweeted the said GIF, he also sent messages to his friends saying things like, “I hope this sends him into a seizure,” and “Spammed this at [Eichenwald] let's see if he dies." The FBI was able to gather this information when it tracked down Rivello through his iPhone.
This is the first time that a GIF has been deemed a Deadly Weapon used for physical assault. "If it's not the first time, it's one of the first times this has happened," Tor Ekeland, a defense attorney told NBC News. While there is a chance that the accused could get off the charges by citing the First Amendment in the US constitution - which counts art work and images as freedom of expression - experts argue that Rivello’s intention to harm Eichenwald might get him behind bars despite the First Amendment argument.