Man charged with online threat to lynch Muslim candidate

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A North Carolina man has been charged with posting an anonymous threat on social media to lynch a Muslim-American candidate for a state Senate seat in Virginia.

A warrant for the arrest of Joseph Cecil Vandevere, 52, of Black Mountain, was issued after his June 20 indictment, federal court records show. Federal authorities hadn't yet arrested Vandevere as of Monday afternoon, according to Lia Bantavani, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office for the western district of North Carolina.

The indictment identifies the victim only by the initials "Q.R.," but Virginia state Senate candidate Qasim Rashid posted a screenshot of the threatening tweet in March 2018 and flagged it for Twitter. Rashid also said he reported the threat to the FBI.

Rashid, an attorney who works on immigrant rights cases and won a Democratic primary last month, told The Associated Press on Monday that he is pleased law enforcement officials are treating the tweet as an act of "extremism."

"I think this is how you protect free speech and a genuine exchange of ideas," he said.

The charge against Vandevere — interstate communication of a threat to injure a person — carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Online court records don't list an attorney for Vandevere, whose Twitter account was called "DaDUTCHMAN5." Twitter has suspended that account.

Vandevere also has used the aliases "Da Dutchman" and "Bob Smith," according to the two-page indictment, which says the offense occurred in Buncombe County, North Carolina.

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The tweet directed at Rashid included a picture of a lynching and said, "PLEASE ... VIEW YOUR DESTINY."

"Hey @twitter this white supremacist @DaDUTCHMAN5 is threatening me with lynching b/c I am a Muslim. Please tell me this violates your terms & conditions?" Rashid wrote, adding the hashtag "WhereWasHeRadicalized?"

Rashid, 36, said he has reported approximately a dozen threats against him to law enforcement over the past few years. This is the first time one of his complaints has led to a criminal charge, he said.

"It spikes any time there is (anti-Muslim) rhetoric from the political leadership of this country," he said. "It's almost predictable."

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