A white man charged with cyberstalking and making racist online threats against a black activist in Virginia is expected to plead guilty next month, according to court records and a spokesman for federal prosecutors.
Brian McGinn, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office for the Western District of Virginia, confirmed that Daniel McMahon is expected to enter a guilty plea during a hearing set for March 16. However, McGinn said in an email Friday that he couldn’t discuss the details of any potential guilty plea until after McMahon appears at the hearing before U.S. Judge Norman Moon in Charlottesville.
A docket entry on Friday says only that Mahon has a change-of-plea hearing set for March 16. Jessica Phillips, an attorney for McMahon, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and email seeking comment.
McMahon, of Brandon, Florida, had a trial scheduled to start June 15 at the federal courthouse in Charlottesville.
McMahon was charged last August with posting social media messages intended to intimidate activist Don Gathers and interfere with Gathers’ plans to run for a seat on Charlottesville's city council. An indictment says McMahon, who was 31 at the time of his arrest, expressed white supremacist views on his social media accounts.
McMahon, who remains in federal custody, pleaded not guilty to charges including bias-motivated interference with a candidate for elective office.
During a hearing in Florida last year, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Wilson said McMahon's mental instability, ability to obtain firearms and praise of mass shootings in Pittsburgh and Charleston, South Carolina, through his online communications raised concerns he posed a threat to the community.
"He is cheering on mass shooters. That is what really bothers me," Wilson said.
Nicholas Matassini, an attorney who represented McMahon at that hearing, argued his client's diatribes were protected political speech.
"I don't think it exhibits any manifest danger to the community," Matassini said.
A prosecutor, Carlton Gammons, told the magistrate that violent threats aren't free speech. One of the comments McMahon made on social media said Gathers needed to be stopped through "a diversity of tactics," according to Gammons, who said that term meant physical violence.
McMahon's mother told detectives that her son didn't like African Americans, Jews or gay people and that she worried her son exhibited some of the characteristics of mass shooters, said Siobhan Maseda, a detective for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, who assisted in McMahon's arrest.
Others have accused McMahon of bombarding them with hateful, threatening messages through online aliases.
Lindsay Ayling, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, told The Associated Press last year that McMahon used an account on Gab under the pseudonym "Jack Corbin" and anonymous accounts on other social media platforms to repeatedly harass her. The messages included sexually violent threats and a post mocking her brother's death.
Ayling said the harassment began after she became an outspoken advocate for taking down Silent Sam, a Confederate statue that protesters toppled on the university's campus in 2018.
This version of the story has been corrected to reflect that Silent Sam, a Confederate statue, was toppled on the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill campus in 2018, not last year.
Michael Kunzelman, The Associated Press