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United States v. Cooper

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

September 9, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JACOB COOPER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ALISTAIR E. NEWBERN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Defendant Jacob Cooper has been indicted by the Grand Jury of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on one count of “knowingly and willfully transmit[ting] in interstate and foreign commerce from the State of Tennessee into the District of Columbia, a communication threatening to ‘shoot up,' injure, and cause harm to a Planned Parenthood facility and individuals therein located in the District of Columbia, ” in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). Cooper was arrested in the Middle District of Tennessee and appeared before this Court on August 26, 2019, for a hearing on the United States' motion to detain him pending trial (Doc. No. 2). Based upon the testimony, evidence, and argument presented at that hearing, the United States' motion is GRANTED.

         I. Legal Standard

         A defendant may be detained pending trial only upon the Court's finding that “no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and the community[.]” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(1). The Court's finding that no combination of conditions will reasonably assure the community's safety must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. Id. § 3142(f)(2)(B). A finding of risk of flight must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence. United States v. Hinton, 113 Fed.Appx. 76, 77 (6th Cir. 2004). “The default position of the law . . . is that a defendant should be released pending trial.” United States v. Stone, 608 F.3d 939, 945 (6th Cir. 2010); see also United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 755 (1987) (“In our society liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception.”)

         In determining whether there are conditions of release that will reasonably assure the defendant's appearance and the safety of any other person and the community, the Court must consider the following factors: (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense charged; (2) the weight of the evidence against the person; (3) the history and characteristics of the person; and (4) the nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by the person's release. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g)(1)-(4).

         II. Findings of Fact

         The United States offered evidence in support of its motion through the testimony of Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Richard Baer. Baer became involved in this matter after the FBI's Washington, D.C. field office identified Cooper in an investigation of threats made on the website iFunny.co. Baer conducted surveillance of Cooper and participated in his arrest. Baer also adopted as his testimony the affidavit of FBI Special Agent Jamie L. Stranahan made in support of a warrant for Cooper's arrest.

         In the affidavit, Agent Stranahan stated that, around August 13, 2019, a post made by a person with the username “JustSomeLeftist” was reposted on the iFunny.co website. The post stated: “God ive been screen shotting these crazy assholes accounts for evidence for 2 years now. I wasn't sure if the FBI took this stuff seriously but now seeing as they do take it seriously I think its about time I start filing reports with picture evidence ive had.” (Gov. Ex. 3.)[1] An individual with the username “Jacco” commented in response to this post: “make sure you tell them about how I plan to shoot up a planned parenthood facility in Washington dc on August 19th at 3pm.” (Id.) Another user transmitted a copy of Jacco's post to law enforcement.

         Investigators then reviewed the account used by Jacco and found a post republished by Jacco earlier in the day on August 13, 2019, reading: “IF YOU ARE A MEMBER OF THE FBI, CIA, WHATEVER, AND ARE ON MY PROFILE I WILL TRACE YOUR IP ADDRESS AND KILL YOU IF THE OPPORTUNITY ARISES. And I am dead serious about this. I'll do it with ricin, a bomb, or .308. Whatever it takes, the end result will be the same. I am serious about this. If I am personally contacted by any federal agents, I will do this. I will kill you. Again, I am serious. Sic semper tyrannis.” (Gov. Ex. 4.) Through other posts, investigators were able to connect the iFunny.co username Jacco to the Xbox Gamer tag “Non Toxic Paint.” The Xbox Gamer account associated with that tag was created by Cooper in December 2014. Investigators also found an iFunny.co post made by Jacco on July 15, 2019, stating “birthday time.” Cooper's date of birth is July 15, 1999.

         Investigators identified the IP address used by Jacco to log into iFunny.co and determined that it was assigned to Cooper with an associated residential address in Clarksville, Tennessee.[2]During surveillance of that residence, investigators observed a man matching Cooper's description being dropped off at and entering the home. Cooper was arrested at that address on August 21, 2019. The home was searched pursuant to a warrant; no firearms were discovered in the search. Cooper did not resist arrest.

         Baer interviewed Cooper's brother after Cooper's arrest. Cooper's brother stated that he and Cooper spent a lot of time together gaming and watching livestream events on the internet. Cooper's brother stated that Cooper could become aggressive while they played games on the internet and had punched a hole in a door and threatened his brother with physical violence during such episodes; Cooper's brother stated that the aggression was worse when Cooper had been drinking. Cooper's brother further stated that Cooper has had suicidal ideations and expressed interest in purchasing a firearm in the past, most recently after the August 3, 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.

         The United States introduced into evidence three additional screen shots of posts made to iFunny.co by Jacco. The first shows what appear to be stock images of firearms that Baer testified were not alleged to belong to Cooper. (Gov. Ex. 2.) The second shows images of Ted Kaczynski surrounding the text “DO IT FOR HIM.” (Gov. Ex. 5.) The third shows text reading: “women dont fucking deserve to be the carriers of human life. they unanimously support abortion and the degradation of the family at least in the united States. if only i could impregnate one of my bros. i know theyd be a better mother than any ‘modern woman.'” (Gov. Ex. 6.)

         Cooper's mother testified that Cooper has lived most of his life in Middle Tennessee and has no passport. He recently worked at Walmart and was to begin a new job as a security guard at Western State Hospital on the day of his arrest. She has never seen him in possession of a weapon.

         The report provided by the Office of Probation and Pre-Trial Services states that Cooper graduated from high school in 2017 and did not pursue further education. The report shows that Cooper has no criminal history or substance abuse history. It recommends that Cooper be detained pending trial ...


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