A Livermore man who told authorities he “sometimes gets angry about his sports teams” was sentenced last week in Columbus to a year and one day in federal prison for violently threatening the Ohio State University and its football team during a 2018 game against rival University of Michigan.
Daniel Lee Rippy, 29, a Michigan fan, sent a message over Facebook about a half hour into the Nov. 24, 2018, game, which triggered an immediate investigation and placed law enforcement officials at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on high alert, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court.
“Your school is going to get shot the (expletive) up, and I’m seriously going to hurt the students and all the players from the football team,” Rippy wrote, the documents said.
That afternoon, the Buckeyes scored a touchdown less than four minutes into the game to take an early 7-0 lead. About 100,000 people were in the stadium. As the game progressed and the score turned ugly for the Wolverines – who lost 62-39 – Rippy sent several other threats to injure or kill players, their family members and the head coach, authorities said.
Rippy’s whereabouts initially caused great concern for law enforcement officers, because he grew up in Michigan. As they investigated, they determined he was in Livermore and did not pose an immediate danger. However, they also found that Rippy had posted similar threats against Gonzaga University’s men’s basketball team on the Spokane, Washington, college’s main Facebook page.
“Rippy’s tirade, which included comments such as, ‘Yeah and when I get my hands on the players from the basketball team there (sic) going to die one by one,’ ended with Rippy sending a message to the school apologizing for his actions, seeking forgiveness and acknowledging the stupidity of his actions,” the document said.
Rippy later admitted he was angry about the outcome of a basketball game between Gonzaga and Duke University. Gonzaga beat Duke, Rippy’s team.
FBI agents arrested Rippy in California in December 2019. He was released on bond but taken back into custody after he failed to appear for a court hearing. U.S. Marshals took him to Columbus.
On Sept. 26, 2019, a federal grand jury in Columbus charged Rippy with one count of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce. Rippy pleaded guilty in July.
Rippy could have faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Knight sought 15 months. In her sentencing memorandum to the judge, Knight wrote, “Rippy’s anger and frustration at the loss of his sports teams went beyond the usual shouting at the television as the clock ticks down the final seconds that many of us experience.”.
“Rippy’s rage was transmitted thousands of miles – from California to Columbus, Ohio – where his threatening words caused panic for law enforcement,” prosecutors said.
In addition to imposing the 12-month sentence on Oct. 27, Chief Judge Algenon Marbley ordered Rippy to spend three years on supervised release.
According to the Knight’s memo, Rippy had a “good upbringing” in Michigan, but became dependent on marijuana. At 18, he began accumulating criminal convictions, including a domestic assault, providing false information to a police officer, and failing to obey a police officer’s lawful order.
Rippy moved to Livermore when he turned 27. He worked in fast-food, but was unable to maintain a residence, Knight’s document said.
Chris Hoffman, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Cincinnati office, said threats like Rippy made are investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force and “result in significant consequences.”
In asking the judge for a strong sentence, Knight wrote that Rippy’s fate should serve as a deterrent to him and others.
“The sentence imposed must also serve to reign in the boldness of keyboard warriors who think that hiding behind a computer screen or cellular telephone gives them permission to send threatening and criminal communications,” she said.