A Massachusetts man was arrested last week and charged with threatening an interracial couple via Facebook Messenger on Jan. 6, 2021, and with attempting to prevent the couple from reporting these threats and harassment to law enforcement.
Stephen M. DeBerardinis, 45, of Boston and Dedham, was charged with one count of transmitting in interstate commerce threats to injure a person; one count of tampering with a witness and victim by intimidation, threats, and corrupt persuasion; and one count of tampering with a witness and victim by harassment. DeBerardinis was arrested today and will make an initial appearance in federal court in Boston today.
“My office aggressively prosecutes people who threaten racially-motivated violence because such threats are illegal, despicable and an affront to American values,” said Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell. “We take a hard line on threats and intimidation, and these charges make clear that such conduct will be prosecuted federally.”
“Today’s arrest cannot mitigate the fear that Stephen DeBerardinis caused, and the sense of security this couple lost, but it does bring him to justice for allegedly sending a series of rage-filled messages threatening horrific acts of violence,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “Acts of intimidation and threats of violence perpetrated against people because of their race, ethnicity, color, or creed are reprehensible. While we all have the right to believe whatever we want, when those views threaten or lead to violence, that’s a different story. We encourage anyone who has been the victim of, or witness to, such crimes to report it to the FBI.”
According to the indictment, in late December 2020, the victims, a white woman and a Black man, announced their engagement on Facebook which included photographs of the couple. DeBerardinis, who did not know the couple personally, could view the photographs. On or about Jan. 6, 2021, DeBerardinis allegedly used Facebook Messenger to send the couple a series of threatening and harassing messages concerning the couple’s interracial relationship. According to the indictment, DeBerardinis said, “EWWWWWWWW YOUR A N***** F***** F****** DIRTY A** WHITE TRASH,” and continued with similar messages. When the couple messaged DeBerardinis that they were reporting him to law enforcement, he allegedly sent them a message that said, “SNITCHES GET STITCHES” with a picture of brass knuckles. It is further alleged that DeBerardinis threatened, “Read up more on me lol… you will see how me and my crew burn n*****s alive,” and “And white whores like you well…. get rape and killed THAN we cut off body parts and mail them to your family lol.” The victims reported the incident to local police, who contacted federal law enforcement.
The charge of transmitting in interstate commerce threats to injure a person provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution. The charge of tampering with a witness and victim by intimidation, threats, and corrupt persuasion provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, restitution and forfeiture. The charge of tampering with a witness and victim by harassment provides for a sentence of up to three years in prison, one year of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, restitution and forfeiture. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting U.S. Attorney Mendell, FBI SAC Bonavolonta and Boston Police Acting Commissioner Gregory Long made the announcement today. The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office provided valuable assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott L. Garland and Torey B. Cummings, of Mendell’s Civil Rights Enforcement Team, are prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.