(SS) The case against a man accused of issuing a Facebook threat to "exterminate" gay people in South Florida has hit some hitches, federal prosecutors acknowledged Tuesday in court.
The evidence investigators have against Craig Jungwirth is "weak," prosecutors said, and they have been unable — so far — to link the alleged threat to Jungwirth, 50, of Orlando and formerly of Wilton Manors.
The problems with the investigation caused prosecutors to recommend that a judge grant Jungwirth a $250,000 bond on the federal charge of making an online threat.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer agreed and ordered that, if Jungwirth is released, he would have to comply with stringent conditions, including house arrest, electronic monitoring and a total ban on any internet use or social media activity.
For now, the federal bond is a technicality because Jungwirth will remain jailed with no bond in Broward County on an unrelated state misdemeanor charge. Jungwirth would still have to convince a Broward County judge to issue a separate bond in that criminal mischief case before he could get out of jail.
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Federal prosecutors told the judge on Tuesday they only have circumstantial evidence against Jungwirth and have been unable to link the threatening post to him.
But they are not giving up. Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Anton told the judge that Jungwirth has about 59 Facebook profiles. Investigators are sending additional search warrants to Facebook to figure out if Jungwirth posted the threat from another profile.
U.S. District Judge William Zloch has agreed to postpone the trial until Jan. 9. If convicted, Jungwirth would likely face 10 to 16 months in federal prison, prosecutors said.
Jungwirth is accused of posting an online threat that read, in part: "None of you deserve to live. If you losers thought the Pulse nightclub shooting was bad, wait till you see what I'm planning for Labor Day."
The Pulse nightclub in Orlando was the scene of a mass shooting on June 12 that left 49 people dead and at least 68 injured.
The investigation of Jungwirth began Aug. 30 when a tipster sent a screenshot of the alleged threat, which appeared to have been posted by Jungwirth, to law enforcement, according to court documents.
Anton told Judge Seltzer that investigators were unable to locate the threatening post when they searched one of Jungwirth's Facebook accounts and his internet usage at his mother's home in Orlando.
Anton said authorities believe they had sufficient evidence when Jungwirth was indicted because they had circumstantial evidence that Jungwirth had used the internet and Facebook at his mom's home around the time the threat was issued.
Jungwirth has links to Wilton Manors, a history of stalking people there and a number of restraining orders against him, Anton said.
"The evidence is weak at this moment," Anton told the judge. He said investigators have been unable to find the threatening post and only have a screenshot of it that was taken by an unknown person and widely circulated on social media.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Michael Spivack told the judge that Jungwirth has been jailed for about two months on "incorrect" information that investigators included in sworn court documents.
Spivack said that, based on the government's handling of this case, any innocent person could be framed and face federal charges if someone used a public access wifi connection to post a threat in their name, took a photograph of it and shared it online.
Judge Seltzer expressed concerns about releasing Jungwirth. He questioned Anton intently and suggested that prosecutors may have an ethical duty to dismiss the charge, rather than agree to release Jungwirth. He also suggested it might be more appropriate for prosecutors to drop the charge and re-file it in the future if they come up with the evidence.
Anton said "the case is not as strong as the government would like it to be" right now but prosecutors still think they may have enough circumstantial evidence to go to trial. They also want to continue their investigation and gather more evidence from the other Facebook profiles linked to Jungwirth, he said.
The judge eventually agreed to the $250,000 bond, which must be co-signed by Jungwirth and his mother. If he is released, Jungwirth must wear an electronic monitor, remain on house arrest in Orlando at all times except when he goes to court or meets with his lawyers. He is also banned from using the internet, must surrender his passport, have no guns or weapons and avoid contact with any potential witnesses or victims, the judge ordered.