A Manhattan man who allegedly threatened to maim or kill numerous elected officials and cable news anchors in deranged social media rants now faces federal criminal charges.
Rickey Johnson, 47, was recently taken into custody following an NYPD investigation. He was subsequently charged in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Friday with making threatening interstate communications and threatening U.S. officials.
According to acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, Johnson — who also goes by Nigel Dawn Defarren — took to Instagram to threaten a number of public figures in the political arena, as well as several cable news broadcasters, “in rage-fueled posts … and chilling private messages.”
Though federal prosecutors withheld their identities, they noted, the threatened lawmakers include a United States senator, a current member of Congress, a former speaker of the House and a current governor. All of them live outside of New York.
“Among the many great freedoms Americans enjoy is the right to engage in political discourse, and disagreements are natural and healthy,” Strauss said. “But when invective metastasizes into threats of harm or even death, law enforcement will act swiftly to bring the person responsible to justice.”
Prosecutors said that Johnson allegedly first lashed out on Jan. 30, when he sent a private message to a cable news broadcaster in which he threatened, “you will all be held accountable … you will be killed [sic].” That message included the names of two other newscasters.
According to the criminal complaint, Johnson then went public with his unhinged threats on Feb. 4. In a video that he broadcast, Johnson allegedly he said the unidentified senator was “dead” and would be “executed.” Johnson also allegedly threatened to kill and execute the unnamed member of Congress and governor.
“Make sure we’re clear, I am speaking to you on my Instagram live, I am going to kill you all,” Johnson purportedly said.
Members of the NYPD, including the 23rd Precinct Field Intelligence Team, participated in the investigation. According to the criminal complaint, they were able to link Johnson to the posts through his IP address which was linked to his apartment. The address matched that which Johnson provided to the NYPD back in 2018 as part of an accident report.
If convicted, Johnson faces up to 5 to 10 years in federal prison.