SEATTLE — A Lynnwood man accused of a months-long campaign of phoning racist threats to businesses across the country — including threatening to shoot Black customers at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York — has been ordered detained pending trial.
Joey George, 37, was arrested last week and was in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday for a detention hearing. According to prosecutors, George phoned a Buffalo grocery store twice in July threatening to shoot Black people and ranting about a “race war.”
He did not call the same Tops Friendly Supermarket in Buffalo where a shooter killed 10 Black people on May 14, but he referenced that attack in his threat, prosecutors said. A 19-year-old white man with ties to white supremacy has pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges in that case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Woods urged Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida to keep the defendant behind bars pending trial, saying the phone calls were not made off the cuff but were part of an escalating “campaign of terror.”
“This was a campaign to instill fear, terror and to tell people of different races they do not belong,” Woods said.
There is no indication that George possessed weapons, Woods said.
George’s attorney, Mohammad Hamoudi, argued against pre-trial detention. George has no criminal history and is a caretaker for his mother, Hamoudi said.
The court sided agreed with prosecutors that the case met the definition of a “crime of violence” and that detention was warranted.
“There’s no way around it: This is a spectacularly concerning allegation,” Tsuchida said.
In addition to the Buffalo store, George phoned threats to businesses in Texas, Georgia, California, Washington, New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Michigan, according to investigators. They said he acknowledged making the calls when he was arrested, and he admitted to some calls they were unaware of.