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Henrico court case over ‘joke’ tweet moves forward

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VPM News File
Jimmie Lee Jarvis is set for a hearing in Henrico County General District Court next week.

A Richmond private investigator faces criminal charges in connection with alleged bomb threat.

The case against Richmond’s Jimmie Lee Jarvis is expected to continue in Henrico General District Court next Thursday. The social media personality was charged with making a felony bomb threat in September; a hearing set for December was continued to Jan. 11.

Jarvis’ charges came after a Sept. 22 social media post on the app formerly known as Twitter, that included an image from the 1998 film Rushmore where actor Jason Schwartzman carries a large box labeled “DYNAMITE.”

The post was made in relation to a speaking event featuring far-right media host Andy Ngo, who’d secured a venue in Henrico following a cancellation in the the city of Richmond hours before Jarvis’ post.

Jarvis’s tweet was enough to register a complaint brought by Henrico Fire Marshal Mark Furguson Jr. for violating Virginia Code 18.2-83, according to court documents.

A warrant for Jarvis’ arrest was drafted, although he turned himself in on Sept. 28. Jarvis was released following a bond hearing a day afterward, where his attorney Tom Barbour told VPM News his client had done nothing wrong.

“It's important to understand that Jimmie did something that I think anyone might do, and that is he made a joke,” Barbour said. “He made a satirical tweet about a right wing extremist group that was trying to have a meeting in Henrico County.”

Later in a press release from Barbour and Kelley Losier, serving as spokespersons on Jarvis behalf, Barbour argued that Jarvis’s post falls under protected free speech — and that local residents should be alarmed by Henrico’s Commonwealth Attorney’s Office pursuit of this case.

“This is bigger than Mr. Jarvis, and it’s bigger than one tweet,” Barbour said. “At a time when local newsrooms are shrinking, and members of the press are facing unprecedented attacks on their profession, the last thing journalists need is to fear being locked up for constitutionally protected speech. This shameless disregard for civil rights should alarm all of us.”

At the Jan. 11 hearing, attorneys are expected to present arguments against the state statute that criminalizes "threats against places of assembly, including buildings, or other structures."

If convicted, Jarvis could face up to 15 years in prison.

Lyndon German covers Henrico and Hanover counties for VPM News.
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