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Trial on hold for man who tweeted threat to kill Jewish people with AR-15

The judge declared a mistrial after learning a witness, who had just testified, had tested positive for COVID.

PORTLAND, Maine — A judge has chosen to pause a criminal threatening trial for a man who tweeted, "I'm going to kill Jews with my AR-15 tomorrow."

Judge John Levy declared a mistrial Tuesday — the first day the jury heard oral arguments. Levy made the surprise decision after being alerted that one of the witnesses who had just given testimony — an FBI agent who first contacted the defendant at his parents' home — tested positive for COVID in the middle of the hearing. Levy said he could have attempted to carry on, but the witness had more testimony yet to give.

Brian Dennison, 25, was arrested at the Buxton home in September 2021, after a private security firm and the FBI flagged the tweet and another on the same day that said, "I'm building a pipe bomb."

Dennison was charged with transmitting threatening interstate communication, a felony that carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Before the COVID diagnosis, Dennison's defense lawyer, Thomas Hallett, tried to establish for the jury that Dennison's Tweet — while hateful, he said — only reached a small number of potential followers, and no reasonable person would feel threatened. 

The prosecution, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Wolff, argued Dennison made a clear threat to harm others, with a specific date to carry it out.

As a result of his mistrial declaration, Levy dismissed the jury for the remainder of the trial. A new one will need to be vetted and installed before deliberations can resume. The case is expected to begin again in July.

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