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Federal Charges Unsealed In Threats Against Youngstown Jewish Center

New Middletown Police Chief Vince D’Egidio (at podium) said at an Aug. 29 press conference in Cleveland that he has known James P. Reardon, the suspect in the threats against the Youngstown Jewish community center, since Reardon was a child. [Afi Scruggs / ideastream]
New Middletown Police Chief Vince D’Egidio (at podium)at an Aug. 29 press conference in Cleveland

After nearly two weeks of review by the U.S. Attorney’s office, federal charges in the case of a Aug. 11 threat against Youngstown’s Jewish Community Center were unsealed Aug. 29.

James P. Reardon, 20, of New Middletown, Ohio, was arrested Aug. 16 and charged with one federal count of transmitting threatening communications via interstate commerce. Federal law allows for several weeks of investigation, officials said at a press conference Thursday at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Cleveland, and the ongoing investigation could result in additional federal charges.

“We will continue to use that time to continue our investigation and see if others were involved,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Smith.

Reardon has already entered a plea of not guilty on local charges of telecommunications harassment and aggravated menacing and was being held on $250,000 bond. In light of the federal charges, Reardon was taken out of local custody and transferred to federal max prison, according to U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman.

A former friend of Reardon’s approached a New Middletown officer with her concerns about an Instagram video of Reardon firing a semiautomatic weapon with a mock headline caption that read in part, “Police identified the Youngstown Jewish Family Community shooter as local white nationalist Seamus O’Rearedon.” The suspect tagged the Youngstown Jewish Community Center on Gypsy Lane in the video. Law enforcement found additional, similarly alarming videos during the investigation, including one of Reardon at the August 2017 white nationalist "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The JCC campus also includes the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, the Levy Gardens assisted-living facility, Heritage Manor nursing home and Akiva Academy, a Jewish day school.

New Middletown Police Chief Vince D’Egidio said the content and references to JCC were too serious to ignore. 

"(The video) showed (Reardon) firing a semi-automatic assault rifle. It seemed like he was projecting something and that’s what kept us going because it identified a specific threat,” he said. 

Reardon was arrested as officers searched his house. They found a cache of weapons and Nazi memorabilia, including a German assault rifle. The gun is not illegal.

 D’Egidio, and all the officials at Thursday’s press conference, stressed that the arrest was made before any violence occurred “because a citizen came forward.”

“It happens in a small town. It doesn’t have to happen in a big city,” said D’Egidio, who noted New Middletown has a population about 1,700 and three full-time police officers.

Often,after the fact, a friend or neighbor says they knew about someone’s ill intentions weeks or months in advance but didn’t want to be alarmist or accusatory, D’Egidio said, but in this case after concerns were raised and it became clear the suspect “has a history with white nationalist ideologies,” the FBI was contacted. After the initial complaint came in around 4 p.m., a warrant was issued and the suspect was in the county jail by 10:45 p.m. that night.

“It was by the book. Everything went perfect,” D’Egidio said. “Law enforcement-wise. Not for Mr. Reardon.”

Herdman issued a strong warning to "white supremacists and white nationalists:"  the First Amendment doesn't give them the right to harm others based on race, ethnicity or religion. 

“The constitution protects your right to think, your right to think, and your right to believe. What you don’t have though, is the right to take out your frustration by resorting to violence,” he said.