On Monday, self-proclaimed "Antifa hunter" Daniel McMahon was sentenced to more than three years in prison by the federal court in the Western District of Virginia. According to reports, McMahon was charged for devoting himself to an online crusade to terrorize, harass, and threaten people who opposed his tightly held white supremacist ideologies. He pleaded guilty to using social media to threaten a Black activist and to dissuade him from running for office in Charlottesville, Virginia. McMahon, who cyberstalked numerous people, went by many pseudonyms in his journey to hunt down Antifa.
McMahon’s sentence includes charges for cyberstalking and bias-motivated interference with a candidate for elective office. His racist social media campaign eventually led to Black Lives Matter activist Don Gathers quitting the race for Charlottesville city council over fears for his own safety.
Using the decentralized social network Gab to air his ideas, McMahon, under the pseudonym “Jack Corbin,” began posting threats aimed at Gathers. According to court documents, he used racist slurs, called Gathers a “terrorist,” and warned him not to run for office. McMahon also threatened to use “a diversity of tactics” to keep Gathers from running. This phrase is known by white supremacists as a euphemism for violence, reports the Washington Post. In January 2019, the FBI notified Gathers of McMahon’s threats, and instead of starting his campaign for city council, Gathers announced that he wouldn’t be running for office.
But the “Antifa hunter” had been on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s radar since the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. His online activity was being tracked under several pseudonyms, and has a history of...hunting Antifa. McMahon first began targeting Gathers online in January 2019 after he announced that he intended to run for public office. As the co-founder of Charlottesville’s Black Lives Matter chapter, Gathers also served on a committee whose mission was to relocate Confederate statues after white supremacists held a Unite the Right rally in the town in 2017.
In September 2019, the FBI arrested McMahon, charging him with threatening Gathers and forcing him out of the race. But this wasn’t his first foray into cyberstalking. Not long after his arrest, a North Carolina woman, who protested against white nationalists, came forward to report that McMahon used Facebook to threaten and stalk her as well. With this woman, McMahon used the pseudonym “Restore Silent Sam,” a reference to a Confederate statue at the University of North Carolina.
At one point, McMahon threatened to sexually assault the woman’s underage daughter who has autism. This was all seemingly in an attempt to extort personal information from her regarding another counterprotester. The woman submitted a statement to be read aloud during McMahon’s hearing in which she said he methodically created a culture of fear and chaos. “There is seemingly nothing that Daniel McMahon will not do in the name of white supremacy,” she wrote.
McMahon kept folders of personal information on his targets, some including photos of their children, according to prosecutors. When prosecutors reviewed the contents of McMahon’s computer, they found a meticulously documented obsession with racially motivated violence, hatred of Black people, and violent imagery including white supremacist James Fields driving his car into a crowd of Charlottesville counterprotesters.
Some of his folders were labeled with racist slurs for titles and contained photos of dead Black men. Other folders with the word “owned” in the title, totaling 278 files in all, kept track of all the people he believed he successfully harassed. The FBI found that McMahon compiled approximately 35 gigabytes of data he could use against his targets.
During his hearing, which was conducted remotely by video conference, McMahon heard from those he harassed and threatened. The federal judge overseeing the case opted for the maximum sentencing recommendation of three years and five months.
“This defendant weaponized social media to threaten and intimidate his perceived political enemies and propagate a violent white, supremacist ideology,” U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen of the Western District of Virginia said in a statement.