Waterloo man charged with sending threatening tweets to Sen. Joni Ernst

Joseph Dierks remains in jail pending hearing Monday

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CEDAR RAPIDS - A Waterloo man was charged in federal court Thursday for sending threatening tweets to U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst last week on two of her Twitter accounts.

Joseph Hilton Dierks, 33, was charged in U.S. District Court with transmitting a communication containing a threat in interstate commerce.

U.S. Chief Magistrate C.J. Williams granted the prosecutor’s request to hold Dierks in custody pending a detention hearing set for Monday.

The affidavit for the criminal complaint includes several tweets from Dierks’ account to two Twitter accounts of Ernst on Aug. 13-16, during the time she was making speaking engagements in Iowa.

Most of the tweets include slurs and curse words against Ernst, some are nonsensical and other comments are threatening – “I want u to die, sorry, not sorry” and “U were almost a widow tell ur husband I said.”

There are also clips from You Tube, including a movie about a man who has to kill his wife because she’s a terrorist and Dierks tweets with it “I just want u to know I’d put a bullet in your head if u were my wife not that I’ll ever have one,” the affidavit shows.

FBI Special Agent Scott Irwin said in the affidavit that Waterloo police contacted Dierks Aug. 15 at his home and he admitted to sending the messages to the senator. The officer told Dierks he needed to stop send threatening tweets to Ernst or he would face criminal charges.

Dierks told him they weren’t “legitimate threats. I just play funny. I’ll definitely tone it down.”

Irwin said that same day after police left, Dierks then posted more tweets about the police coming to his house and said his remarks were taken out of context. He also called Ernst more slurs and threatened her again. Dierks continues to send tweets to Ernst on Aug. 16.

Irwin and another special agent interviewed Dierks outside of his workplace in downtown Waterloo Aug. 18. Dierks claimed he had been sending tweets to Ernst since she was elected because he wanted her help to get a waiver to join the military. He told the agents he needed the waiver because of his criminal history and age. Dierks said he wanted to get her attention but didn’t feel his messages were threatening, Irwin said in the affidavit.

Dierks also said more than once that he understood Ernst could perceive them as threats, Irwin added.

Dierks said he first started out sending “sweet tweets” to Ernst but she never “liked” those tweets.

Dierks has a current protection order placed against him in state court for harassment of two adults and a child, according to court records. He pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment for an incident May 5, 2016. He sent numerous harassing and threatening text messages to relatives. Dierks also threatened physical assault against the relatives, court records show.

His criminal history includes charges for drunken driving, possession of marijuana and carrying weapons, according to Iowa Courts online.

In another case involving Sen. Ernst, an Omaha man, Robert Simet, 64, was previously charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in July for threatening to Ernst because he believed she was part of ISIS, and he told others he might kill her at an event that was to held to be held in Pacific Junction.

U.S. Magistrate Helen C. Adams released Simet July 18 pending trial under special conditions, which are sealed, court documents show. No trial date has been set at this time.

An affidavit for the complaint shows Simet was identified as the suspect by employees and others at Loess Hills Harley-Davidson in Pacific Junction. Ernst was scheduled to speak at the shop and lead a motorcycle ride to Hamburg.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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