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Michigan man accused of antisemitic threats against Michigan elected officials

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A Michigan man is due in court this week after allegedly posting antisemitic death threats against state officials on Twitter.

The Detroit News first reported the story Wednesday. The FBI arrested James Eugene Carpenter III last month, citing a specific threat to kill “anyone that is Jewish" in the Michigan government, including the state’s attorney general.

The agency said that message was posted on February 17 while Carpenter was in Texas. He is charged with making threatening interstate communications. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.

State Rep.Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills) is among a handful of Jewish lawmakers in the state Legislature. She said she routinely receives antisemitic threats of violence.

“When the FBI called me," she said, "I think it was one of those, like, ‘Great, I’m glad you caught him.’ But it was because of a social media outburst. Every day there’s social media outbursts about killing of Jews. Every single day. And it has only risen.”

Steckloff stressed she feels that antisemitism is more prevalent now than she’s ever seen in her life. She named comments from celebrities like Kanye West, a hostile climate on Twitter she feels CEO Elon Musk contributed to, and the spread of COVID-19-related conspiracy theories as contributing factors.

Earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League found a pronounced increase in antisemitic beliefs in America.

Steckloff said she’s felt the need to take her own security measures while at home and around the capitol in Lansing.

“Every day I go home to emails of swastikas. Every day I get phone calls about killing me as being a Jew. This is an era that I’ve never witnessed before,” she said.

The FBI said it was advised that Carpenter had multiple firearms while it investigated the case, including pistols, hunting rifles, and a shotgun.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel confirmed on Twitter Thursday she was among the officials targeted in Carpenter’s alleged tweets. She brought it up during a legislative committee hearing on gun violence.

“It’s also not lost on me that as I sit here today, a mentally disturbed man awaits court proceedings in Detroit based on threats he made to use his arsenal of firearms to murder me,” Nessel said.

Carpenter’s alleged Twitter account also had previous tweets seeming to indicate that he worked at the University of Michigan but lost his job for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.

A university spokesperson confirmed he worked at the school from 2011 until 2021. He was a systems administrator intermediate when he left. The spokesperson said university policy prohibits the release of “additional information on personnel matters.”

Federal records indicate Carpenter had a public defender assigned to him Wednesday. The attorney's office did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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