Defendant allegedly posted threats to at least 45 Instagram accounts of athletes
A former college soccer player was charged this week in federal court in Boston with sending death threats to at least 45 professional and collegiate athletes between July and December 2017.
Addison Choi, 23, of Fullerton, Calif., was charged with one count of transmitting in interstate and foreign commerce a threat to injure the person of another. Choi will appear in federal court in Boston at a later date.
“There is a difference between free speech – even hate speech – and intentionally putting others in fear for their lives,” United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “Mr. Choi crossed that line. Based on today’s charging document, and hiding behind the anonymity of social media, he threatened his victims in graphically violent, often racist terms. We take seriously internet-based threats of violence, especially racist ones – they undermine our nation’s hard-won, fundamental values of equality.”
“As alleged, Addison Choi made dozens of vile and racist death threats targeting professional and collegiate athletes and their families,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division. “He waged a very public campaign of intimidation against them, blaming them for his own prolific gambling losses. Let this case serve as another warning to others who think they can hide behind a keyboard and get away with making violent threats that put others in fear for their lives. Enough is enough. The FBI takes seriously all acts or threats of violence and is committed to investigating them.”
According to court documents, in 2017 Choi attended college in Wellesley where he played varsity soccer. He also gambled prolifically on sports, both professional and collegiate, and he lost more than he won. When the players or teams that he bet on performed poorly, Choi used Instagram to send them death threats. For example, on July 27, 2017, Choi posted on one professional athlete’s Instagram account: “I will kill you and your family and f****** hang them on a tree you stupid ugly mother*****” and also “I hope you f****** die you stupid monkey n*****.” On the same day, Choi posted on another athlete’s Instagram account: “I’ll find your f****** family and skin them alive you stupid f***, I hope you never play again.” Choi also posted threats on the accounts of athletes’ loved ones.
In another instance, Choi posted on the Instagram page of a professional athlete’s girlfriend, “You stupid mother***** [name], you worthless f***. I will f****** kill you,” and “I will f****** kill [name] you dumb f****** bitch… leave that irrelevant stupid mother*****.”
Between July 2017 and December 2017, Choi allegedly posted threats to at least 45 different Instagram accounts, with multiple threats to each account and often multiple targets per threat.
Choi faces a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release, restitution, and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
U.S. Attorney Lelling and FBI SAC Bonavolonta made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott L. Garland, of Lelling’s Civil Rights Enforcement Team, and Gregory J. Dorchak, of Lelling’s Civil Rights Unit, are prosecuting the case.
This is a press release from the FBI.