Man told the authorities in an interview at his home in May he hoped to persuade Pai to change his mind on overturning the FCC regulations for Internet providers, the court documents said. The FCC voted in December to repeal the rules, which banned Internet providers from slowing down or blocking websites. The rules officially came off the books earlier this month.
“They pretty much ignored, like, 80 percent of comments,” Man allegedly told investigators, referring to the public feedback the FCC solicited on its plan ahead of the vote. “They ignored us and just didn’t care.”
Man sent at least two other emails, the Justice Department said. One allegedly accused Pai of being responsible for a child’s suicide, and the other contained an image of Pai and his family. It was not immediately clear if Man had admitted to sending the other emails.
The FCC’s online public comment system has been criticized for failing to stand up under intense load as the agency was soliciting feedback on its proposal to repeal the net neutrality rules. In May 2017, officials at the agency claimed a distributed denial of service attack was disrupting the system. But the FCC has not produced detailed logs or other analyses to back up the assertion, and the agency’s own commissioners have claimed the irregularities could have allowed fake messages sent by automated bots to crowd out feedback from American citizens.
The FCC declined to comment on the charges against Man. But the agency has become increasingly familiar with threats of violence against Pai and his family. Moments before the FCC voted to repeal the net neutrality rules in December, security guards interrupted the public meeting and, in an unusual move, evacuated the room in response to a called-in bomb threat. The all-clear was given minutes later.
Pai himself has long complained of activist abuse over his net neutrality stance. In November 2017, he told protesters to “stop harassing us at our homes” in an interview on “Fox and Friends.” During the segment, Fox showed images of cardboard signs in Pai’s suburban Virginia neighborhood, apparently directed at Pai’s children, reading “They will come to know the truth. Dad murdered Democracy in cold blood.”
Pai also has canceled a number of public appearances amid security concerns, abandoning a keynote appearance this year at the annual CES technology show in Las Vegas. But he did appear onstage at CPAC, the yearly conservative conference, where he was unexpectedly presented with an award from the National Rifle Association.
Man wrote an apology letter for his action, court documents show. “Dear [Federal Official 1], I’m sorry I made a threat against your kids. That was crossing the line. I hope you’ll change your mind on [Official Action] but I doubt it. Best Regards, Mark.”