Trial underway for man who tweeted threats of mass shootings

Does harassing or making racially-charged comments on social media constitute felony stalking?

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Kent County jurors on Wednesday will begin deliberating the fate of a Grand Rapids man accused of making threats of mass shootings and harassing an anti-genocide activist using social media.

Trial got underway Tuesday, June 27 for David Lenio, 31, on three criminal charges, including aggravated stalking. Both sides rested their cases Tuesday afternoon; the case will go to jurors on Wednesday.

The charges stem from Lenio’s online activity involving Jonathan Hutson, a communications consultant from Washington, D.C. who also worked with the Brady Campaign & Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Lenio was ordered not to have any contact with Hutson as part of a criminal case in Montana. Investigators say he ignored that court order and made contact with Hutson earlier this year.

“The defendant is on social media, he’s on twitter and he is tweeting about executing Jews,’’ Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Travis Earley said. “On Feb. 7 of this year, he tweets again directly at Jonathan Hutson.’’

Lenio and Hutson had never met. But it was  Lenio’s online comments more than two years ago that caught Hutson’s attention and led him to contact the FBI office in Oregon.

“He’s threatening to shoot school kids,’’ Hutson said, referring to the earlier social media posts from Lenio. “He says he wants to shoot grade school kids.  Oh, my gosh. He’s threatening to shoot up a synagogue.’’

Those threats led to criminal charges being filed in Montana, where Lenio was living at the time.

Officials in Kalispell, Montana deferred prosecution for two years. The 2016 agreement required that he stay off social media and have no contact with witnesses in the case, including Hutson.

Criminal charges were filed earlier this year in Grand Rapids when Lenio violated terms of that agreement. “This was unconsented contact,’’ Earley said. He (Hutson) didn’t reach out and engage Mr. Lenio in any form of communication whatsoever.’’

The aggravated stalking charge accuses Lenio of conduct that would lead Hutson to feel “terrorized or frightened or threatened or harassed.’’ Aggravated stalking is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Lenio is also charged with using a computer to commit a crime, a seven-year felony, and a misdemeanor count of malicious use of telecommunications.

The most recent threats were made between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22 from a home on Baynton Avenue NE, where Lenio had been staying since his return from Montana, court records show. He is being held in the Kent County Jail on a $500,000 bond.

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