A 37-year-old Lynnwood man was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle to two years in prison for making interstate threats and a hate crime.
Joey David George has been in federal custody since his arrest on July 22, 2022. In his plea agreement, George admitted he made threatening telephone calls from or near his home in Lynnwood to grocery stores in Buffalo, New York, restaurants in California and Connecticut, and a marijuana dispensary in Maryland.
“In today’s day and age, words are the weapons in the arsenal of the bully, the bigot, the racist and the homophobe…These words seep into the psyche of the victims and cause incredible pain that might never go away,” U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said during the sentecing hearing.
“While Mr. George suffers from some mental health impairments, his conduct in this case was deliberate and motivated by racial hatred,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “He wanted people to feel the terror that they would be targeted because of the color of their skin. Mr. George used the tragedy of the Buffalo grocery store shooting to make his threats even more searing. We take these matters very seriously.”
According to records in the case, on July 19, 20, and 21, 2022, George 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 2022. Law enforcement traced the phone number and identified George as the person who made the calls.
In addition to the calls to Buffalo, George admits that in May 2022, 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. On that same day George also called a Denny’s restaurant in Enfield, Connecticut and threatened Black patrons at the restaurant.
In asking for a sentence at the top of the guidelines range prosecutors noted that the calls had an impact beyond just a day of business disruption. George has agreed to pay $13,088 in restitution to the impacted businesses. He will be on three years of supervised release when he finishes his prison sentence.