Federal prosecutors in Ft. Lauderdale startled LGBT activists this week when they filed a motion in court to dismiss a charge accusing a Florida man of making threats on Facebook in September to “exterminate” LGBT people in the gay enclave of Wilton Manors, Fla.
U.S. District Court Judge William Zloch on Wednesday approved the motion filed by prosecutors one day earlier, dismissing the case against former Wilton Manors resident Craig Jungwirth, 50, who had been charged with making online threats.
At the time of his arrest last September the FBI alleged in an affidavit that Jungwirth posted a Facebook message threatening to carry out a Pulse nightclub type shooting against LGBT people in Wilton Manors over the Labor Day weekend.
“None of you losers deserve to live,” the FBI affidavit quoted one of Jungwirth’s Facebook postings as saying. “If you losers thought the Pulse nightclub shooting was bad, wait until you see what I’m planning for Labor Day,” the affidavit quoted his post as saying.
In another posting, Jungwirth allegedly said, “Since you faggots aren’t dying of AIDS anymore, I have a better solution to exterminate you,” according to the FBI affidavit.
At the request of prosecutors, a grand jury on Sept. 15 handed down a one-count indictment against Jungwirth charging him with violating a federal law prohibiting the interstate transmission of threatening communications.
If convicted on that charge Jungwirth would have faced a possible sentence of 10 to 16 months in federal prison.
Court records show that prosecutors indicated a possible problem in their case when they requested that Jungwirth’s trial, which had been scheduled to begin on Nov. 14, be postponed for at least 45 days to enable them to continue to search for online evidence in connection with Jungwirth’s postings on Facebook and Twitter. They noted that Jungwirth had been linked to at least 59 Facebook profiles.
“[I]t has come to the Government’s attention that despite the issuance of a federal search warrant commanding Facebook to provide certain information to the government, they have failed to provide a complete return, and it may be necessary to seek an order from this Court compelling Facebook to comply with the Search Warrant issued by the Magistrate or the issuance of additional search warrants seeking the documents requested,” prosecutors stated in a Nov. 7 motion filed in court.
“In addition, subpoenaed documents have not yet been returned from Twitter,” the motion says.
“In sum, there exists a vast amount of evidence and discovery outstanding in this case that has yet to be provided to both the government and the defense and the United States is seeking the 45 day continuance to properly conduct its follow up investigation, based in part on the evidence seized from the defendant, that is material to both the government and the defendant in this case,” the motion says.
Court records show that Judge Zloch granted the prosecutors’ motion to postpone the trial for 45 days. But prosecutors’ surprise announcement this week that they decided to drop the case against Jungwirth appears to show they were unable to line up the evidence they needed to obtain a conviction against him.
The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel reported this week that Jungwirth’s attorney, Michael David Spivack of the Federal Public Defender’s Office, told the judge at an earlier hearing that the evidence against his client was so weak and that anyone could have posed as Jungwirth and made the alleged online threats.
“We are happy that the nightmare for Mr. Jungwirth is finally over and that he can move on,” the Sun Sentinel quoted Spivack as saying. The newspaper said Spivack declined to make any additional comments on the case.
Wilton Manors police, meanwhile, pointed out that unrelated misdemeanor charges remain pending against Jungwirth in Broward County, where Ft. Lauderdale and nearby Wilton Manors are located. Jungwirth has been held in jail without bond in connection with the federal charge.
Prosecutors said he would remain in jail for the local charges until at least Jan. 19, when he is scheduled to appear in Broward County Court, where he has pleaded not guilty to allegations that he failed to pay a tab for food and drinks at a Wilton Manors restaurant in 2014. A second misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief accuses him of damaging windows at the Rumors Bar and Grill, also in Wilton Manors, last May. He has pleaded not guilty to that charge.
The FBI affidavit filed in the now dismissed federal case against Jungwirth said Wilton Manors police identified Jungwirth as a “known individual and past city resident who had previously been the subject of numerous complaints involving the harassment and stalking of Wilton Manors residents.”
Jungwirth and his attorney couldn’t immediately be reached this week by the Washington Blade.