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Jack Hurlbut of Eaton Rapids was charged with ethnic intimidation related to anti-Semitic death threats he made toward a Jewish student intern at MSU.

By Keri Guten Cohen

A Jewish student intern at the Lester and Jewell Morris Hillel Jewish Student Center at Michigan State University in East Lansing was urged by Hillel staff to report anti-Semitic death threats he’d been receiving via Facebook messages last October, according to Robyn Hughey, Hillel associate director.

Hughey said staff learned about the trouble when some of them began getting Facebook messages, too.

“While we were not scared for our lives, we were worried for our intern’s safety,” Hughey said. “We put additional security into place to ensure the safety of our students. When we initially received the messages, we did not know much of the backstory and our student’s safety is our first priority. We quickly learned that our staff, students and building were not the target — the accused was focusing his attention on our intern.”

Using court records that included a personal protection order, the Lansing State Journal reported April 25 that Jack Hurlbut, 19, of Eaton Rapids was jealous his ex-girlfriend had moved on to a date with a new man — the intern, who is from Metro Detroit. The threatening messages escalated. Hurlbut also called the Hillel twice.

“The accused called the building twice and spoke with Executive Director Cindy Hughey both times,” Robyn Hughey said. “The second time was when she told him she would call the police if he called again. All contact with him and our staff then stopped. This was in November.”

Robyn Hughey also said Hillel’s executive director “has been fully cooperating with the police and prosecutors, which is why she has not given any public comment.”

According to the State Journal story, one of the messages referenced Hitler. The story said the first message appeared the day before the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting Oct. 27, 2018, in Pittsburgh, where 11 people were killed and seven were injured.

The intern filed a complaint Nov. 15 with the East Lansing Police Department, which led to Hurlbut being charged with ethnic intimidation, a felony punishable by up to two years in prison, and malicious use of telecommunications services, the State Journal reported, adding that ethnic intimidation is not a charge commonly used in the state. Since 2014, 160 people have been charged with ethnic intimidation in Michigan, according to the State Court Administrative Office.

Criminal charges were filed in a hearing in late January, the State Journal reported. Hurlbut is due to appear back in court at 2 p.m. April 30 for a pretrial hearing. He is currently free on bond; his attorney declined to comment on Tuesday, the story said.