A Washington man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to making interstate threats and committing a hate crime for interference with a federally protected activity. The defendant has been in federal custody since his arrest on July 22.
According to the plea agreement, Joey David George, 37, of Lynwood, telephoned multiple grocery stores in Buffalo, New York, and threatened to shoot Black people in the stores. George told the staff at the store to “take him seriously,” and ordered the store to clear out the customers, as he was “nearby” and “preparing to shoot all Black customers.” One store closed. The threats followed a racially-motivated shooting at another Buffalo grocery store in May. Law enforcement traced the phone number and identified George as the person who made the call.
In addition to the calls to Buffalo, George admits that in May, he called a restaurant in San Bruno, California. In that call, George allegedly threatened to shoot Black and Hispanic patrons in the restaurant. He told law enforcement that he made the threat to strike fear in the Bay Area Black community.
On Sept. 11, 2021, George called a cannabis dispensary in Rockville, Maryland, and used racial slurs as he threatened to shoot and kill Black people at the business. George admitted his racial hate to local law enforcement who used caller ID to trace the call. The dispensary shut down and hired extra security, causing a loss of over $50,000. George also called a Denny’s restaurant in Enfield, Connecticut, and threatened Black patrons at the restaurant on the same day.
In his plea agreement George admitted he made threatening telephone calls from at or near his home in Lynnwood, to grocery stores in Buffalo, New York, restaurants in California and Connecticut, and a marijuana dispensary in Maryland. Sentencing is scheduled in front of U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez on Dec.16.
In his plea agreement George agrees to pay restitution to the impacted businesses.
Making interstate threats in punishable by up to five years in prison. Interfering with a federally protected activity is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors have agreed to limit their sentencing recommendation to the high end of the federal sentencing guidelines range. Judge Martinez is not bound by prosecutors’ recommendations and can impose any sentence up to the 10-year statutory maximum after considering the sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Nick Brown for the Western District of Washington and Special Agent in Charge Richard A. Collodi of the FBI Seattle Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI Seattle Field Office investigated the case, with the assistance of multiple local police departments. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Woods and Rebecca Cohen for the Western District of Washington prosecuted the case in consultation with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.