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Michigan AG says she was among targets in plot to kill Jewish officials

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks in a news conference on Sept. 19, 2022, in Flint, Mich. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)
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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Thursday that she was among the officials targeted by a man who allegedly threatened “to carry out the punishment of death to anyone that is jewish” in the state’s government.

Last week, authorities arrested Jack E. Carpenter III, 41, on one count of using interstate communications to make threats. It was at least the second plot against Michigan politicians federal authorities said they’ve foiled in recent years.

The charge against Carpenter, which carries up to a five-year sentence, stems from a set of posts Carpenter allegedly made on Feb. 17 threatening to kill Jewish government officials in Michigan “if they don’t leave, or confess.” Though the targeted officials’ names are not mentioned in a criminal complaint, Nessel, who is Jewish, said the FBI confirmed she was eyed by “the heavily armed defendant.”

“It is my sincere hope that the federal authorities take this offense just as seriously as my Hate Crimes & Domestic Terrorism Unit takes plots to murder elected officials,” Nessel wrote on Twitter, referencing three men’s thwarted plan to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in 2020.

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The public defender’s office representing Carpenter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

According to a criminal complaint, Carpenter, who is a Michigan resident, was in Texas when he used his Twitter profile to lodge threats against officials in a long and muddled thread that included mentions of the Bible, rambles against the coronavirus vaccine and messages espousing antisemitism.

“Within the next 48 hours I will be back in Michigan. … Any Jewish person holding a public office on my land after that time is subject to immediate punishment,” he allegedly wrote, tagging accounts belonging to the FBI, President Biden and Elon Musk.

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The next day, Carpenter doubled down on his Twitter threats — warning Michigan’s Wayne County sheriff that “any attempt to subdue me will be met with deadly force in self-defense,” according to the complaint. The tweets alarmed an FBI investigator, who traced the account to Carpenter, the complaint adds.

But it was ultimately calls with the Michigan State Police and Carpenter’s mother that shed greater light into the alleged plot, prosecutors said. The FBI investigator contacted a Michigan state trooper, who said that Carpenter’s mother had called that morning warning that her son had grown angry after she refused to give him money for his return trip, the complaint states. She told authorities that Carpenter owned three handguns, a shotgun and two rifles, including one military-style weapon, the complaint adds.

The FBI investigator pinged Carpenter’s phone location to an address in Texas, where he was arrested, according to prosecutors. He appeared in federal court there on Feb. 21 and was later transported to Detroit, where he remains in custody. His pretrial detention hearing is scheduled for Friday.

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A University of Michigan spokesperson said Carpenter was employed there from June 2011 to December 2021. He last served as a systems administrator in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the spokesperson said, adding that the institution’s policy is to not “share additional information on personnel matters.”

The Twitter account federal agents associated with Carpenter was created in October 2021. The account includes posts about Jewish people and the jumbled set of conspiracy theories known as QAnon.

The alleged plot against Michigan officials is the latest in a string of antisemitic incidents in the country. Last month in New York City, neo-Nazis protested outside the preview of Tony Award-winning musical “Parade,” a show about the lynching of a Jewish man. In Florida, individuals associated with several antisemitic groups harassed people outside a synagogue, hurled insults and projected messages like “Hitler was right” onto a stadium, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Earlier that month, fliers describing a sacred Jewish text as “satanic” popped up in Atlanta’s suburbs — just days after a man fired blanks inside a San Francisco synagogue.

“No one should be threatened or targeted with violence because of their religious beliefs,” U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison said in a statement about Carpenter’s arrest. “Anyone who communicates a threat to kill or injure others can expect serious criminal consequences.”