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Florida Extremist Who Influenced Tree of Life Shooter Arrested for Threats Against Candidate

Pittsburgh residents mourn after the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue.EXPAND
Pittsburgh residents mourn after the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
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Sitting in front of a computer screen in his home in Brandon, Florida, Daniel McMahon allegedly carried out a campaign of terror, encouraging violence against countless people and helping influence at least one murderous white nationalist. This week, federal authorities finally caught up with him. Earlier today, the Justice Department announced that McMahon, age 31, has been arrested on charges of making racist, violent threats against a prospective candidate for city council in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Although the First Amendment protects an individual’s right to broadcast hateful views online, it does not give license to threats of violence or bodily harm," U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen said in a statement.

McMahon was indicted on two counts of interference with a candidate for elected office, one count of using a communication device through interstate commerce to threaten injury, and one count of cyberstalking. McMahon's alleged target, who is not named in the newly unsealed indictment, is Don Gathers, a cofounder of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Charlottesville, according to the Huffington Post. Gathers was mulling a run for local office but dropped his bid after receiving threats via McMahon's various social media accounts. 

To understand the connection between McMahon and Charlottesville is to go down a rabbit hole of online extremism. A self-styled "god damn fascist" and Holocaust denier, McMahon went by a handful of screen names — "Dakota Stone," "Pale Horse," and "Jack Corbin" — while spewing violent, homophobic, and racist messaging online. The last moniker is the pseudonym he used on the social media site Gab, a platform similar to Twitter that's popular among white nationalists, where his posts were shared by David Bowers, the man accused of killing 11 people in a mass shooting in October at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Bowers shared and interacted with Corbin's posts more than those of anyone else, according to digital experts with the Network Contagion Research Institute, which worked to analyze Bowers' online activity in the weeks after the shooting. Under the guise of Jack Corbin, McMahon praised Bowers and other violent white nationalists such as Charlottesville car attacker James Fields, who faces 30-some federal counts and state murder charges for allegedly driving a 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one, after the 2017 Unite the Right rally.

McMahon's other posts on his various accounts number in the thousands and run the gamut of depravity, pairing abstract proclamations of white supremacy with very real threats against liberal figures perceived to be antifascist. These posts have been flagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center and detailed extensively by journalist Jared Holt of Right Wing Watch, an online news site that tracks right-wing extremists.

"Hey Antifa, it's simple. Wanna know how to not get Dodge Challenged or shot? Don't attack Right Wingers ever," McMahon wrote in a Gab post saved by Right Wing Watch. Another message he posted on Gab reads, "No I'm not a Nazi or National Socialist. I'm a God damn Fascist, and if you're 'Anti-Fascist' or 'Anti-Racist', you're my fucking enemy and I will know my enemy. There is no hiding from me! Anti-Whites your fate is sealed!"

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, McMahon wrote the following posts, which were shared by Bowers last year: "Whites have a right to exist, faggots do not. Faggots are not human beings, they are AIDS carrying flesh muppets," and "It's OK to be White. It’s OK to be Russian. It's not ok to be an Antifa terrorist."

McMahon has been linked to a campaign targeting a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who was advocating for the removal of the "Silent Sam" Confederate statue; McMahon made "Dodge Challenger" references in threats to students involved in protests. He has also gone offline to lob phone threats at a Seattle restaurant for its decision to adopt a gun-free policy.

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