KALISPELL – Authorities charged David Joseph Lenio, who allegedly used social media to threaten to gun down Kalispell schoolchildren and Jewish leaders, with felony intimidation.
Now, a national blogger for the Southern Poverty Law Center says Lenio – who was released on his own recognizance in July – has violated the terms of that release hundreds of times.
Hatewatch, a blog written by Bill Morlin and managed by the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, on Friday reported that Lenio has re-tweeted 348 messages since being released into the custody of his parents in July.
District Court Judge Heidi Ulbricht banned Lenio, a former Kalispell restaurant cook, from using social media when his $500,000 bail was waived and she granted his release to await trial.
While it does not appear Lenio wrote any of the messages himself, his alleged re-tweets of other people’s posts include anti-Semitic ones, many that accuse Israel of planning the 9/11 attacks on America, and ones that discuss killing other people.
One of the recent re-tweets from @PsychicDogTalk3, which authorities say was Lenio’s Twitter handle, is one that repeats part of a quote attributed to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who was discussing the Iran arms deal at the time.
“If someone says they want to kill you, believe them,” it says.
It’s right below a re-tweet of another post in which someone wrote, “I want to kill.”
Among the 348 messages are also re-tweets from the Twitter accounts of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.
Jonathan Hutson, the Maryland man who first unearthed hundreds of social media threats allegedly made by Lenio and reported them to authorities last winter, on Friday called on Flathead County authorities to return Lenio to jail.
“What Lenio deserves is to be rearrested and hauled back to Montana, pronto,” Hutson wrote in an email to Flathead County deputy prosecutor Stacy Boman after Morlin’s report. “This episode proves that Lenio continues to have hatred and violence on his mind, and cannot be trusted to comply with court-mandated conditions for his release.”
Boman did not return a phone message Friday. Lenio’s attorney, public defender Brent Getty, said he had no comment on the allegation that his client had violated the terms of his release.
“But I would reiterate, at the same point, that I am getting very concerned about publicity over this case in the last week, and its effect on Mr. Lenio’s right to a fair trial if this goes forward,” Getty said.
Hutson joined a small group of local human rights activists and two rabbis in front of the Flathead County Justice Center on Monday – when Lenio’s trial had been scheduled to start – to call on the Flathead County Attorney’s Office to press for a felony conviction that would keep Lenio from ever being able to legally own guns again.
The group said they were concerned prosecutors and Lenio’s attorney were working on a deal in which the felony intimidation charge might be dropped, reduced to a misdemeanor or plea-bargained down to a deferred sentence. In those cases, they said, Lenio could once again legally arm himself at some point.
Lenio was arrested a day after his roommate said he had moved two rifles and ammunition from a storage unit and into their apartment. A handgun was also found in his van when he was taken into custody.
When she released Lenio into the custody of his parents, who returned him to their home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Judge Ulbricht banned him from using social media, possessing firearms or contacting witness, and ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation.
“There is nothing in the court file to indicate any of those conditions have been met,” Morlin wrote on Hatewatch.
Hatewatch also reported that, during the five months he was held in the Flathead County Detention Center prior to his release, Lenio made several postings on his PsychicDogTalk Facebook page.
While that was before Ulbricht banned him from social media, inmates are not supposed to have access to cellphones or the Internet, Hatewatch said.
They don’t, Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry told the Missoulian on Friday, adding that it was “highly improbable to impossible” that Lenio made the updates himself.
“When it comes to posting things on the Internet, anybody can do that,” Curry said.
Lenio’s PsychicDogTalk.com Facebook page contains 10 updates made while Lenio was incarcerated, including three on the day before he was released to his parents. Most are posts from other pages that were shared, and they range from one that accuses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of lying, to one criticizing the F-35 fighter jet program.
The jail rules prohibiting cellphones and Internet access leave Hutson “with the plausible theory that someone smuggled a cellphone into the jail for Lenio to use,” the Hatewatch article says.
Contraband does make its way into the jail from time to time, Curry said, “but my jail commander says we’ve never had a cellphone smuggled in. The only way to get one in would be in a body orifice, and we routinely search cells looking for stuff they’re not supposed to have.”
Even if an inmate had a cellphone smuggled to him, there would be no way for him to keep it charged, the sheriff said, and there is no cellphone service in the jail anyway.
“Ours don’t even work when we’re over there,” Curry said. “Never say never, but we would have found a cellphone if he’d had one.”
In the days prior to his arrest, prosecutors allege that Lenio tweeted dozens of messages, saying things such as, “I want to shoot up a school,” “I may kill kids,” “I bet I could get at least 12 unarmed sitting ducks if I decide to go on a killing spree in a #school,” and “Why the hell shouldn’t I shoot up a synagogue for what the jews (sic) did to US?”
His trial was continued to Jan. 19 at the request of Getty, whose motion for a continuance told Ulbricht that “the matter may be able to be resolved, without the need for a trial, as early as (this) week.”