Joseph Cecil Vandevere, 52, of Balck Mountain, N.C. was indicted on June 20 and charged with issuing a threat via interstate commerce to Qasim Rashid, an activist and Democratic Virginia Senate candidate.
Vandevere appeared in court Wednesday, according to the United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. During his court appearance, authorities also accused Vandevere of making anti-Semitic threats in February 2018 on a Florida synagogue's Facebook page under the name "Bob Smith." Vandevere has not been charged for allegedly threatening the synagogue.
Rashid, 36, posted a screenshot of the threatening Tweet in March 2018 and reported it to the FBI and Twitter, which suspended Vandevere's account. The post included the phrases "inbred Muslim scum," and "VIEW YOUR DESTINY." The post was accompanied by a black-and-white image of the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish man who had been convicted of murdering a young girl in Georgia.
Most researchers believe Frank was wrongfully convicted and he was pardoned posthumously in 1986.
Rashid, who moved with his family to the United States from Pakistan in 1987, said he's experienced threats aimed at his religion before.
“I don’t know if my experience is necessarily unique,” he told the New York Times. “As a person of color, as an immigrant and as a Muslim, to speak publicly about your faith and to receive death threats is not uncommon.”
The FBI subpoenaed Facebook records associated with the "Bob Smith" account after a rabbi at Ramat Shalom Synagogue in Plantation, Fla. reported the anti-Semitic comment, which called for "public arrests and executions" of "dual citizen Jews." Responses to the Facebook subpoena and a separate subpoena to telecommunications company Charter Communications linked the account to Vandevere, an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit.
"The review of the Facebook search warrant results disclosed that the Facebook account was used by Vandevere mainly to harass other people," the affidavit said, noting that Vandevere called it his "attack dog" account.
An "open source search" using Vandevere's telephone number linked him to the same Twitter account - with the handle "DaDUTCHMAN5" - that posted the threat against Rashid, according to the affidavit.
The FBI obtained a warrant to search Vandevere's apartment and seize records related to both the Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Rasid, who works on immigrant rights cases, won the Democratic primary for the District 28 seat in the Virginia state Senate last month. He will challenge Richard Stuart, the Republican incumbent, in November.
Vandevere was released on $25,000 bond and is expected to appear in court July 15. He faces up to five years in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.