A California man was sentenced today to more than one and a half years in prison for threatening to kill the family of Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
“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. I would like to thank our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners for their assistance in this investigation and prosecution.”
According to court documents, on or about Dec. 19 and 20, 2017, Markara Man, 33, of Norwalk, sent three emails to Chairman Pai’s email accounts. The first email accused Chairman Pai of being responsible for a child who allegedly had committed suicide because of the repeal of net neutrality regulations. The second email listed three locations in or around Arlington and threatened to kill the Chairman’s family members. The third email 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, California, and when initially confronted in May 2018, Man admitted to the FBI that he sent the email 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.
This 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.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and M. Jay Farr, Arlington County Chief of Police, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander P. Berrang prosecuted the case.
The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, the Federal Protective Service, and the Arlington County Police Department provided significant assistance in this investigation.