A Columbus area activist and journalist, John Shade III, pled not guilty yesterday in federal court to charges resulting from a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) investigation that started when he was spotted writing anti-Trump posts on Twitter.
Shade said, "I am still waiting for them to show me the threat, or veiled threat they are saying I made to the president on Twitter." Shade said everything he has said online or at any rally is "firmly protected by the 1st Amendment" right to free speech. Asked if he would ever advocate terrorist violence he said, "I don't advocate using violence against anybody, unless it is in self defense."
Shade awoke March 22nd around 6am when his windows shattered in the front and back of his house, and smoke grenades shot into his residence, Shade said. In the front, the smoke grenade got stuck on the curtains, catching them on fire, nearly setting his house ablaze. "I thought I was being robbed," Shade said, since he saw intruders with black ski masks and flashlights entering the room where he slept, before they yelled they were from the FBI. He was handcuffed and marched across his front yard in his underwear, and put in the back of a police cruiser for nearly 2 hours while about 20 security agents searched his house. Once in the back of the cruiser, he realized during the arrest his shoulder was knocked out of socket. "I felt [my shoulder socket] pop back [into place] when I was shifting around in the back of the cruiser." He said his shoulder popped out of socket before and he will always remember the sensation.
Police ripped down ceiling panels in the basement, took off wall paneling, disabled the furnace, and left the thermostat hanging off the wall, as well as breaking his windows and setting his curtains on fire causing a few thousand dollars of property damage in total, Shade estimates. They seized several thousand dollars of electronics, including his Alexa devices, laptop, desktop computer tower, old hard drives, children's video game systems, GoPro camera and tablets, disabled his wireless internet router, and left his cats locked in the basement with no heat, food or water for the next week while he was detained. "I have been having a hard time explaining to my kids why they dont have the tablets and video game consoles," Shade said.
Shade describes himself as a father, independent journalist, anti-fascist, humanist, soccer coach and gardener. He has a history of minor offenses related to protesting white nationalists, such as Richard Spencer, as well as a history of standing for environmental protection, immigrant rights, and universal health care.
Convicted of a second degree felony at 18-years-old, Shade is now charged, two decades later, by the FBI JTTF with 18 U.S.C 922(g)(1), Felon in Possession of Ammunition, and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for allegedly buying a box of ammunition that costs under $20 at Walmart. Shade was released on bail Wednesday 27 March with several conditions, including that he wear an ankle monitor that tracks his movements 24 hours a day by GPS.
When Shade talked to the FBI JTTF, he said they only spent 30 seconds talking about the ammunition related to the current charge, and then 25 minutes talking about whether he was anti-fascist, a threat to the president or first lady, a supporter of law enforcement, an accredited journalist and about the Tweets they claim he wrote from the account JuntoUnsilenced, that is currently deactivated.
The federal criminal complaint, filed by FBI JTTF Task Force Officer (TFO) Jonathan Stickel, states, "This case originated within the Federal Bureau of Investigation after reports of SHADE making comments and remarks of a threatening nature on social media via Twitter towards the President of the United States on multiple occasions and one directly towards a local United States Secret Service (USSS) agent."
Shade said in response, "I am confident that I have never threatened the president. Everything I have ever written or said about him is with the intent of making fun of him, or basically saying 'you are a moron'."
Despite the complaint stating the FBI case started with threatening online activity, it says before the online posts, the Secret Service had confronted Shade at an Ohio event where Vice-President Mike Pence was touting Trump's tax cuts June of 2018 which Shade was covering for an online journal. "They tried to snatch my press badge off my neck," Shade said.
Then, about a week later, Secret Service Special Agent Bart Tackett showed up on his doorstep to interview him. But Mr Shade was not home at the time, so Tackett left several cards with various neighbours around his rural home indicating that the Department of Homeland Security was seeking information regarding the whereabouts and activities of Shade and to notify them if they had any information. Then he found out from his neighbors that they had been questioned by the Secret Service regarding whether they had any information about his social media posts, or his visit to the Pence rally.
Shade said he felt intimidated and harassed by the Secret Service for "leaving cards with my neighbors with no attempt to actually charge me with anything." Shade said his attorney reached out to Agent Tackett and was informed that they "just wanted to check on my well-being and get to know me better."
Shade learned they believe he tweeted a few weeks later, responding on Twitter to First Lady Melania Trump praising a Secret Service Special Agent Nole Edward Remagen, who had passed away from a stroke while on duty. They showed him a text where JuntoUnsilenced said, "Would you say the same for Agent Bart Tackett??" That is when the FBI JTTF picked the case up, according to the legal complaint. While this tweet implies Tackett is not an honorable agent, it does not appear to be threatening as the complaint alleges.
The FBI, under President Trump, is apparently treating Shade as a terrorist because he has a record of minor offenses related to protesting white supremacy, human rights abuses by ICE, police brutality, tax reform, Trumpcare and against the Trump presidency in general. The complaint states, "SHADE has a history of traveling within and out of state to attend political events as well as protests, and on several occasions, his conduct at these events has resulted in charges related to trespassing, obstructing, invasion of privacy and carrying weapons other than firearms."
Shade had no idea what the invasion of privacy was referring to, while the trespassing, obstructing, and allegations of weapons other than firearms he believes were related to a protest against Richard Spencer at Michigan State University last March. During that event he was arrested and later pled guilty to a civil infraction, Shade said, which was essentially "walking around a gate."
For decades the FBI has prioritized prosecuting environmental and animal rights activists labelled as domestic terrorists, over right-wing extremists, despite the fact that environmentalists and animal rights campaigns don't murder, and right-wing extremists have committed the majority of mass killings, including 78% in 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League's new report, Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2018.
The Intercept reported in The Threat Within, on 23 March, that "Of 70 federal prosecutions of radical environmentalists and animal rights activists identified by The Intercept, 52 did not result in charges under anti-terrorism laws. Yet the defendants were repeatedly called terrorists by the Justice Department in public statements and internal communications. The designation opened up additional resources and gave the government powerful leverage in the form of terrorism sentencing enhancements, which prosecutors sought in more than 20 cases."
The charges Shade faces have a maximum sentence of 10 years, but no required minimum, unless the prosecution attempts terrorism sentencing enhancements, in which case the minimum sentence could be 5 years or more.
The police carried out an arrest and search warrant against Shade in January and alleged to have found ammunition purchased by Shade at Walmart. The complaint describes the search resulted from an altercation between Shade and somebody associated with a property he owned. Shade said he was in a nearby residence, but he would have to transport through a wall to have interacted with the person in the way the complaint alleges. According to Shade, a meth addict had broken into the basement of a property he owned, was manufacturing meth, had an accident with the chemicals, and alleged Shade had assaulted him, "to deflect criminal charges from himself." Shade hadn't heard the squatter was a meth addict until after Shade was arrested, Shade said.
The previous December the guy had broken into Shade's property with a female partner and a baby during a winter deep freeze. The police declined to assist Shade, saying it was a civil matter. Later, when Shade heard the pair and their children had been homeless prior to breaking in, Shade decided to allow the squatters a few months for the weather to improve before insisting they leave. Shade believes the squatters called the police after one of them got chemicals in the face from their meth lab.
But when the police showed up, the police charged Shade with attempted felonious assault, according to Shade. The charge was quickly dropped after a search warrant of Shade was carried out. His truck was placed in police impound, and his property was seized, including his ID, passport, two cell phones, home maintenance tools, cash, credit cards, work computer, children's tablet, press credentials, prescription medications, and allegedly a single box of ammunition. Shade said he had no idea the police charged him with possession of ammunition based on that search until the police stormed into his house Friday 22 March.
Now Shade faces steep legal fees associated with defending himself against charges brought by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.