Stephen M. DeBerardinis faces federal witness and victim intimidation charges carrying penalties of 20 years or more in prison after the FBI arrested him Wednesday in connection with racist Facebook messages he is accused of sending.
The couple -- a white woman and a Black man -- had posted pictures of themselves on Facebook celebrating their engagement, the FBI stated. In response to that post, DeBerardinis, who did not know the couple began sending them racist and threatening messages -- starting January 6, of all days -- according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) news release. Here's how DOJ described the communication:
"DeBerardinis allegedly used Facebook Messenger to send the couple a series of threatening and harassing messages concerning the couple's interracial relationship. According to the indictment, DeBerardinis said, "EWWWWWWWW YOUR A N***** F***** F****** DIRTY A** WHITE TRASH," and continued with similar messages.
"When the couple messaged DeBerardinis that they were reporting him to law enforcement, he allegedly sent them a message that said, "SNITCHES GET STITCHES" with a picture of brass knuckles. It is further alleged that DeBerardinis threatened, "Read up more on me lol… you will see how me and my crew burn n*****s alive," and "And white whores like you well…. get rape and killed THAN we cut off body parts and mail them to your family lol."
"The victims reported the incident to local police, who contacted federal law enforcement."
DeBerardinis, 45, of Boston was charged with one count of transmitting in interstate commerce threats to injure a person; one count of tampering with a witness and victim by intimidation, threats, and corrupt persuasion; and one count of tampering with a witness and victim by harassment.
The DOJ accompanied its charges with a level of intensity not customarily expressed in the prior administration.
"My office aggressively prosecutes people who threaten racially-motivated violence because such threats are illegal, despicable and an affront to American values," said Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell. "We take a hard line on threats and intimidation, and these charges make clear that such conduct will be prosecuted federally."
Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston division, weighed in with this:
"Today's arrest cannot mitigate the fear that Stephen DeBerardinis caused, and the sense of security this couple lost, but it does bring him to justice for allegedly sending a series of rage-filled messages threatening horrific acts of violence. Acts of intimidation and threats of violence perpetrated against people because of their race, ethnicity, color, or creed are reprehensible. While we all have the right to believe whatever we want, when those views threaten or lead to violence, that's a different story. We encourage anyone who has been the victim of, or witness to, such crimes to report it to the FBI."
A local Boston website, Universal Hub, adding this reporting to the coverage of the DeBerardinis indictment:
"DeBerardinis was a prominent participant in a "Back the Blue" rally in front of the West Roxbury police station earlier this month, at which police had to pull him out of a scrum with protesters after he tried to punch some of them. He responded to Universal Hub coverage of the event, which included two photos of him, with e-mail threats to "COME FOR YOU HARD HAHAHAHAHAHA."
There was also this from the DOJ:
"The charge of transmitting in interstate commerce threats to injure a person provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution. The charge of tampering with a witness and victim by intimidation, threats, and corrupt persuasion provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, restitution and forfeiture. The charge of tampering with a witness and victim by harassment provides for a sentence of up to three years in prison, one year of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, restitution and forfeiture."