YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A federal judge ordered that a New Middletown man accused of threatening the Youngstown Jewish Community Center remain locked up as his case is bound over to a grand jury.
U.S. Magistrate Judge George Limbert’s decision came after the end of a 90-minute hearing Thursday to determine if the case against 20-year-old James Reardon should be bound over and if he should be denied bail.
The judge found that there was probable cause to send the case over to a grand jury. Meanwhile, Reardon will remain in detention.
A criminal complaint was filed against Reardon Aug. 29 in the U.S. Northern District Court Of Ohio that came after an Aug. 17 search warrant was served at the New Middletown home of his mother by police and federal authorities.
The warrant was served after police learned of a video Reardon posted to his Instagram account in July that they say was a threat directed toward the Jewish Community Center, which was tagged in the post.
The video shows Reardon shooting a rifle with sirens and screams in the background with the caption, “Police identified the Youngstown Jewish Family Community shooter as local white nationalist Seamus O’Rearedon.” Seamus is a nod to Reardon’s Irish heritage, authorities said.
Reardon’s parents, as well as a friend, testified at the hearing for the defense. The lead investigator in the case, Special Agent Thomas Donnelly of the Youngstown office, testified for the prosecution and was the only prosecution witness.
Reardon nodded slightly to family members in court when he entered the courtroom and later nodded at his mother when she walked past him to testify. He has been held in the Mahoning County jail since he was arrested shortly after the warrant was served.
Part of the testimony centered on Reardon’s attendance at the Unite The Right Rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August of 2017, where white supremacists groups and white nationalists gathered in opposition to the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a local park. A protester against the rally was killed by a man who drove his car through a crowd.
Donnelly testified about photos of Reardon taken at the rally where he was holding a folding baton like the kind law enforcement uses. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Toepfer also said another one of the pictures shows Reardon resisting police.
Reardon’s attorney, Ross Smith, said his client was never arrested in Virginia and that his views, no matter how repugnant, are protected by the Constitution. In his closing argument, he accused the government of criminalizing speech.
“We are this point trying to criminalize speech,” Smith said. “I don’t like that kind of speech, but the Constitution says it doesn’t matter.”
Toepfer said the government is not criminalizing speech. He said that when threats are made, however, that crosses the line.
“The law prohibits those thoughts that frighten the community,” Toepfer said.
Reardon’s parents, James R. Reardon and Judy Leone, both said they do not believe their son is a threat to anyone. The elder Reardon said he was against his son attending the rally. He also said an MP40 submachine gun that was found in Leone’s home when it was searched is actually a replica and is not an automatic weapon, but a .22-caliber rifle made to look the MP40, which was used by German troops in World War II. The elder Reardon said his son was a history buff and he collected things linked to historical events.
Authorities also found an M-16 rifle that the elder Reardon said was used in Vietnam and a pellet gun in the home when they served the warrant. Leone said since then, she got rid of a couple other pellet guns in the home and there are no weapons there now.
Leone said her son called her several times from the rally and he was frightened.
During his cross-examination of Reardon’s parents, Toepfer asked both of them when their son became a “Nazi sympathizer.”
“I’m not sure that he is,” the elder Reardon answered. Leone gave the same answer as well.
Logan Stewart, a friend of Reardon’s, testified about the video, which was originally shot in January of 2018 at the Struthers police shooting range. Stewart said he edited part of the video to include screams and sirens and sent it to Reardon about seven months later. Reardon added the tag for the JCC as well as what the authorities add is the threat when he posted the video in July.
Stewart added the screams and sirens to the edited portion of the video because he said he thought Reardon would get a kick out of it.
Stewart also sent the unedited video to Reardon, he testified. Stewart said he was shocked when he saw that the video was used the way Reardon used it. He said he did not think Reardon would hurt anyone but he could see how some people could interpret it as a threat.