Public Safety

Cedar Rapids man charged in federal court for threatening prosecutor, firing flare gun at courthouse

He remains in jail pending detention hearing Friday

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man was charged Tuesday with threatening a federal prosecutor through social media and also mentioning a federal judge, probation officer and U.S. deputy marshal in the message, and later firing a flare gun at the courthouse where all have offices.

John E. Miller, 39, who was charged last month in state court for firing the flare gun, was charged Tuesday during an initial appearance in U.S. District Court with one count each of influencing, impeding or retaliating against a federal official by threatening an official, judge or a federal law enforcement officer; malicious damage to federal property; and interstate communications with intent to injure.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Roberts ruled Miller would remain in jail pending a detention hearing Friday.

The FBI was notified Nov. 19 that Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Nydle received a message she regarded as threatening and/or harassing, according to a search warrant affidavit. The message was sent by an account belonging to Miller through Facebook Messenger.

The message also mentioned Deputy Marshal Earl Plattner, probation officer Rhonda Moyle, and U.S. District Senior Judge Linda Reade. In the message, Miller stated “the flare guns are at most what a fake warning meeting of f#@k you feds.”

Nydle told authorities the only John Miller she knew was a man she prosecuted in Benton County when she was a state prosecutor. She also knew Miller had sent her a letter but she never saw it. The letter was screened through the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s process. Nydle said she wasn’t sure what Miller’s reference of “fake warning meeting” meant, according to the affidavit.

The rest of the message, included in the affidavit, didn’t make much sense. It mentioned someone being Satan and “his life being held for ransom of prison jail.”

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Nydle told authorities she had no direct contact with Miller since leaving the Benton County Attorney’s Office about four years ago.

She filed a report with the Cedar Rapids Police Department about the harassing message.

The U.S. Marshals Service told federal agents there was an “open threat” investigation on Miller involving Moyle, the affidavit states. Miller was scheduled Nov. 19 to have a state parole violation hearing based on the harassing texts he sent to Moyle.

Miller had been observed on surveillance video walking by the courthouse in the past and making derogatory gestures toward the building.

On Nov. 19, Miller shot a flare gun at the courthouse about 1:05 p.m., the affidavit states. The flares ignited the green portable HESCO barriers at the front of the building, which were extinguished. A review of surveillance video from the area showed a person across the street, near Black Sheep Social Club, 600 First St. SW, fire the flare toward the courthouse. The remaining flare shot landed near a base of the tree.

Authorities believed Miller worked near the courthouse at 111 Seventh Ave. SE, and took the bus about 1:30 p.m., after the flare incident, on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Second Street, according to the affidavit.

Investigators also had surveillance video taken from Black Sheep that showed a white male, matching Miller’s description and his clothing, including a white helmet with lights attached, who fired two flare guns at the courthouse. The image also appeared to match a profile photo on one of his three social media accounts.

A search of Miller’s residence revealed evidence of two orange flare guns, two flare gun cartridges, one white work helmet with lights attached, mail belonging to Miller and a lanyard with his identification, the affidavit states.

Miller admitted to investigators Nov. 22 that the flare guns were his, but he claimed he was “just screwing around” that day, according to the affidavit. He was shooting the flares at the ground and didn’t intentionally target the courthouse.

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Miller also said he knew Nydle was from Benton County, where he was from, and he wanted to vent to someone. He sent that message to learn more information about the other people he mentioned. He didn’t feel the message was threatening, the affidavit states.

Miller told investigators he was prosecuted by Nydle for a harassment case in Benton County, according to the affidavit. He was upset with her over the case.

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

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