Michigan man pleads guilty to making violent threats against Jews

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A 19-year-old Michigan man pleaded guilty Monday to using social media to make violent threats against Jewish people last summer.

Seann Pietila, who has been in custody since June, was accused of using Instagram to spread neo-Nazi ideology, discuss plans to kill people and compliment mass shooters.

In his plea agreement with prosecutors, Pietila admitted that he told someone he had a plan to kill or injure Jewish people and wanting to post the attack online. The FBI said Pietila had written the name of the Shaarey Zedek congregation in East Lansing, near Michigan State University, in a note on his phone along with a 2024 date.

Investigators said Pietila told another Instagram user that he would “inspire others to take arms against the Jewish controlled state."

During a search of Pietila's home in Pickford in the Upper Peninsula, investigators found a cache of weapons, knives, tactical equipment and a red-and-white Nazi flag, the FBI said.

“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 Mark Totten said outside federal court in Grand Rapids.

A message seeking comment from Pietila's attorney wasn't immediately returned. Pietila will return to court for his sentence on March 4.

The FBI said Pietila made apparent references to the New Zealand shooter who is serving life in prison for killing 51 people and injuring 40 others in the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks.

“This is a tense moment because of the situation that is happening overseas,” Totten said of the Israel-Hamas war. “We will show zero tolerance for hate-fueled acts of violence and threats of violence against anybody based on their race, their ethnicity, their religion.”