Charges Dismissed in Twitter Intimidation Case

Attorney for David Lenio filed a deferred prosecution agreement in Flathead County District Court this week

By Justin Franz
David Lenio appears in court in February 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Prosecutors have agreed to dismiss charges against a man who allegedly threatened to shoot school children and religious leaders on Twitter.

David Lenio’s public defender, Brent Getty, filed a deferred prosecution agreement in Flathead County District Court on March 3. In it, Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan agreed to dismiss intimidation charges against Lenio if he remains law abiding for two years.

The only other restriction for Lenio within the agreement is that he informs his attorney of where he is living for the next two years.

“These tweets never amounted to the charge of intimidation,” Getty said. “This case would have been very difficult for the state to present at trial and we’re very pleased that they’ve agreed to this deferred prosecution. We believe it’s a just result.”

Corrigan was unavailable for comment on Friday afternoon.

If Lenio breaks the law within two years, prosecutors could again pursue the charges against him.

Lenio was charged last winter with intimidation and criminal defamation, both felonies, for comments he made on Twitter in late 2014 and early 2015.

In one online post on Feb. 12, 2015, Lenio allegedly wrote, “I bet I could get at least 12 unarmed sitting ducks if I decide to go on a killing spree in a school. Sounds better than being a wage slave.” And in another tweet, sent on Feb. 15, he reportedly wrote, “If my tax dollars can go to blowing up Palestine school kids then surely I can tweet about how cool killing school kids is.”

On Feb. 16, an officer with the Kalispell Police Department contacted Lenio to talk to him about his tweets. Lenio admitted that he had sent the messages and that he was “trying to bring attention to certain social issues,” according to court documents. He then told the officer that he was glad his tweets were gaining the attention of law enforcement and school officials.

Later that same day, an officer talked to Lenio’s roommate, who said Lenio had brought rifles and ammunition to their home the night before, according to authorities. Police obtained a search warrant for Lenio’s apartment and found a 9mm semi-automatic rifle and a Russian-made bolt-action rifle in his bedroom. They also found numerous rounds of ammunition in Lenio’s bedroom and basement. Later they conducted a search of Lenio’s vehicle and found a .32 caliber semi-automatic pistol and more ammunition. They also discovered marijuana, a pipe and jugs of urine.

Lenio was arrested Feb. 16, 2015, as he was coming back from snowboarding at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Lenio pleaded not guilty to the charges soon after his arrest. He spent five months in the Flathead County Detention Center before being released into the custody of his family in Michigan. The charge of criminal defamation was later dropped.

The decision to drop the rest of the charges against Lenio surprised the man who first pointed out the tweets to authorities. Jonathan Hutson, a Maryland media consultant who previously worked for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, accused the local criminal justice system of giving Lenio special treatment.

“The state of Montana is reloading a man who has threatened to massacre school children and religious leaders,” Hutson told the Beacon.

Rabbi Francine Green Roston is a leader of the local Jewish community and helped organize a rally last year to encourage the county to take Lenio to trial. She said she was surprised at the decision to drop charges and said that law enforcement clearly thought Lenio posed a threat to the community.

“It’s very disappointing that the prosecutors were unable or unwilling to bring this case to trial,” she said.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.