GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WJMN) — A Pickford 19-year-old has agreed to plead guilty after his arrest in June for threatening what an FBI agent called a “mass casualty incident” at an East Lansing Synagogue.
Seann Patrick Pietila signed a plea agreement admitting guilt for Count 2 of his indictment; transmitting threatening communication in interstate or foreign commerce. The first count of that charge was dropped, as well as the charge of threatening to kill or injure by means of fire.
The plea agreement shows the maximum sentence for Pietila’s crime would be five years in prison, three years of probation, and $250,000 in fines. A judge will be presented with the plea agreement at a hearing on Nov. 13.
Court documents show the FBI received a report of threatening communication happening on social media. Following an investigation, Pietila was found to have sent messages between May 27 and June 2 to three other people discussing among other things his preparation for an attack on the synagogue, far-right militant symbols, and other attacks said to be driven by white supremacist ideology. Pietila was arrested on June 16, two days after the FBI began its investigation.
While searching Pietila’s home on June 16, law enforcement found a shotgun, rifle, pistol, tactical vest, and a Nazi flag, among other items.
Hundreds of pages of information were given to the FBI by Meta, the owner of the app Instagram where the conversations took place. Agents also found Pietila to have a TikTok account with the same username and a Snapchat. Pietila mentioned using Discord to broadcast the attack.
The indictment shows the Count 2 charge against Pietila is attributed to messages where he first says he originally planned an attack in March, but chose not to go through with it after beginning a relationship. He then goes into specifics of what weapons he was planning to use, including “homemade napalm,” and discusses the Christchurch mosque shootings that left 51 people dead.
Court documents show the FBI found a note on his phone listing the Shaarey Zedek Congregation, followed by the date March 15, 2024 the words “me and Limey,” and a list of weapons. Investigators say Pietila identified “Limey” as a 16-year-old from New Zealand who he was messaging with about his plans for the attack. Transcripts of the text conversation show Pietila and that individual had discussed committing separate attacks at the same time.
Below the list of weapons in the note are the words, “good morning sweetheart, I hope you slept well. Do you still hate me??”
The FBI agent who wrote the criminal complaint said Pietila told investigators he did not plan on following through with the mass killings he had spoken about. After the shotgun was discovered in his home, Pietila said he was planning to use it to commit suicide and had written a suicide note in his phone.
Pietila is expected in court next on Nov. 13 in Grand Rapids, where a judge will decide whether the plea deal will be accepted or not.