Dateless shmoe in trouble over anthrax threat

He was just a lonely guy out to strike a blow for lonely people everywhere. What that has to do with threatening to send anthrax to a newspaper hasn’t quite been explained yet—unless maybe he meant Anthrax the thrash-metal band instead of anthrax the deadly disease.

In response to a threatening e-mail concerning this paper sent on Wednesday, May 14, Chico police, working with agents from the FBI, arrested Deric Jeffery Braito, 21, on charges of “making terrorist threats.” The FBI was involved in both the May 22 arrest and the subsequent search of Braito’s Nord Avenue apartment, which turned up no weaponized germ warfare agents or Anthrax CDs.

According to an internal e-mail circulated here at the News & Review, a potential customer to the Talking Personals service (advertised by the News & Review but run by a private vendor in Minneapolis) sent the service an e-mail from a home computer decrying the fees charged to use the personals service. The text of that e-mail ran as follows:

“fuck you guys for charging!! Why do you need to make money off peoples lonliness? Why cant it be $7.00 for a lifetime membership? You know what… fuck you. I will be sending CN+R anthrax within the next 3 days. I hope all you fucks fucking die! Fuck you bitches!”

Apparently, the sender of the e-mail was not very optimistic about finding true love, as revealed by the request for a “lifetime membership.”

Chico News & Review Publisher Kathy Barrett said she made the decision to call the police “[b]ecause you never know with these things. We didn’t want to just brush it off.” Chico PD then informed the FBI, a procedure that has become standard whenever the word “anthrax” is mentioned, Detective Sergeant Dave Barrow said.

“If he would’ve said he was going to go down and shoot you guys or something, it might not have been [as] big of a deal,” Barrow said.

Braito was said to be apologetic when he was arrested. His computer remains in the custody of the FBI, which is “analyzing” its contents to see if further federal charges are warranted. The threatened germ attack was deemed “not credible.”

The charge of making terrorist threats is a serious one, said Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, who noted that such a charge counts as a felony strike on one’s record. Ramsey refused to speculate on possible sentences, saying he wasn’t aware of the particulars of the case.

Media coverage of the threat, including TV news reports, was muted, but a story in Saturday’s Enterprise-Record contained at least two gaffes. In a quote attributed to Chico police Sgt. Scott Franssen, the pricing for the CN&R’s personals service was grossly misrepresented. Nobody at the CN&R was called for comment by the E-R. The story also stated that Braito was being held in Butte County Jail on $150,000 bail, when in fact Braito was cited and released the day of his arrest. He is scheduled to be arraigned June 20.