Anchorage Twitter user with extremist views detained on weapons charges
Michael Graves, a tall, lanky 19-year-old, frequently glanced left to right during his bail hearing Tuesday, keenly paying attention to whoever was speaking during the federal court hearing in downtown Anchorage.
Accused of possessing an unregistered machine gun and two unregistered silencers, prosecutors used Graves' Twitter posts to urge Chief Magistrate Judge Deborah Smith to deny his release.
During questioning, Graves told the FBI the posts were jokes and he denied having extremist beliefs of white supremacist views, according to an FBI agent who testified.
He did admit a dislike for "Muslims, Israelites or Jews, and atheists," the agent said.
The combination of violent, racially-motivated posts coupled with possession of numerous firearms led the judge to conclude they were "actions that suggest a will to act" and that community safety required his continued detention.
During a search of Graves' Fairview home, investigators seized 11 firearms, along with a sawed-off shotgun barrel, extended magazines, silencers, and something called a "Glock Full Auto Selector Switch," which is designed to convert a semi-automatic Glock-type pistol into a machine gun.
One of the silencers is decorated with a swastika and the numbers 1488, a reference to white supremacy and the name of an Alaska prison gang.
Graves remained composed throughout the hearing until his mother appeared on the witness stand. She'd volunteered to keep an eye on him, if the court would release him. She cried. He teared up.
Graves' father and brothers looked on, periodically shaking their heads or wiping their eyes as they watched the proceedings.
Investigators became interested in Graves' activities after receiving an anonymous tip that he was "posting racially motivated extremist views on his social media accounts." The tipster also feared Graves may commit an act of violence.
"We have Jewish people in this community. We have Muslim people in this community. We have people with whom the defendant has avowed he would like to shoot up or kill," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Sayers-Fay told the court, pushing for Graves' detention.
Defense attorney Ben Crittendon countered that, "we have to protect the speech that we dislike the most."
"I disagree with defense counsel that words don't matter," Judge Smith said. "They can be as deadly as bullets."
Prosecutors submitted nine Tweets posted between February and May of 2019 to the court as evidence of Graves' views. They include statements like "Let's beat H!tlers killcount bruvs," "A synagogue to shoot up TBH," and he replied "terrorism" to a Tweet from a separate poster who wrote "Might F*** around and do a crime any suggestions?"
Sayers-Fay and the FBI said there were no specific threats made to actual individuals or known locations.
But Graves' actions -- like reposting and circulating streaming video of recent shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand -- have them concerned.
Judge Smith agreed with that concern, ordering for Graves' continued detention.
Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Sayers-Fay emphasized that Graves' Tweets are protected speech, but that it was Graves' acquisition of illegal weapons, and taking steps to be able to act on his statements, that crossed the line.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with Graves' correct first name.