‘Cowardly’: Mass. man pleads guilty to threatening interracial couple through Facebook Messenger


BOSTON — A Massachusetts man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to threatening an interracial couple who announced their engagement on Facebook in 2021 with vulgar language and violence.

Stephen M. DeBerardinis, 46, of Boston and Dedham, pleaded guilty to one count of transmitting in interstate commerce threats to injure a person, one count of tampering with a witness and victim by intimidation, threats, and corrupt persuasion, and one count of tampering with a witness and victim by harassment, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.

In late December 2020, the victims, a white woman, and a Black man, posted about their engagement on Facebook which included photos of the couple. DeBerardinis was able to view those photos through a mutual friend and started sending the victims a series of threatening and harassing messages about their interracial relationship on January 6, 2021.

Many of the messages included vulgar racial epitaphs and profanities. He threatened physical violence against the victims if they told police, including sending a picture of brass knuckles with the message, “SNITCHED GET STITCHES,” according to authorities.

“This case demonstrates that you cannot cowardly hide behind a keyboard and spread bigotry, intimidation and fear,” Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy said. “Everyone deserves to live free from persecution and threats simply for who they are. Full stop.”

DeBerardinis will be sentenced on June 10. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2021.

“You can’t just threaten people online with racially motivated, violent physical harm and not face repercussions,” said Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division.

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