Attorney downplays charges against man who made threats
YOUNGSTOWN — The attorney for James Reardon, federally charged with making threats against the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown, said the accusation against his client is “way blown out of proportion.”
After Reardon’s Friday arraignment in U.S. District Court, attorney Ross T. Smith said, “It is a First Amendment right (issue) all day long. There is no threat. It is a depiction of a prior event. It’s completely fictional.”
Smith said Reardon, 20, of Eastwood Drive in New Middletown, was not at the JCC when he made the video that was posted to Instagram.
“He was nowhere near there,” Smith said. “He was at a shooting range in Lowellville. There will be more evidence coming out with an investigation.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Toepfer, who is prosecuting the case, declined to respond to Smith’s statements.
Toepfer said that if convicted, Reardon could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Bonnie Deutsch Burdman, the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation’s director of community relations and government affairs, said in a telephone interview, “We’re glad that law enforcement is taking these threats seriously. We appreciate the efforts of law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We’ll wait and see how it plays out.”
During Friday’s arraignment, U.S. Magistrate Judge George J. Limbert decided Reardon will remain in the Mahoning County jail pending his Thursday hearing.
Reardon faces one count of transmitting threatening communications via interstate commerce.
After being made aware of the video by an acquaintance of Reardon, New Middletown police contacted the FBI on Aug. 16. The video was posted July 11 on an Instagram page by user “ira–seamus.”
The video showed Reardon holding an assault rifle with the JCC of Youngstown tagged in the post, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The video also had a caption that notes, in part, “the police have identified the shooter of the Youngstown Jewish Family Community Center as local white nationalist Sheamus O’Reardon.”
Law enforcement obtained a search warrant later on Aug. 16 and found an AR-15 assault rifle, an MP-40 submachine gun, numerous Nazi World War II propaganda posters, a rifle bayonet, a Hitler Youth knife and other vintage U.S. military equipment in his basement.
“Many of the items were used in the threat video,” FBI Special Agent Eric B. Smith said Aug. 29 when the federal complaint against Reardon was unsealed.
Reardon arrived home during the Aug. 16 search and was arrested without incident.
Also, Reardon is in other videos, including a National Geographic documentary in which he was at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 and a separate Instagram video in which he discharges two rounds of ammunition into a cover of a video while making a remark about “Jewish media,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.