Crime & Courts

Judge denies release for Anchorage 20-year-old accused of buying, manufacturing illegal weapons

A federal judge in Anchorage ruled Tuesday to keep in detention an 20-year-old prosecutors say bought and manufactured illegal weapons, which they argue he might have used to commit an act of mass violence.

Prosecutors contended that Michael Graves, who is accused making homemade silencers and buying a device online that can convert a gun into an automatic weapon, is too dangerous to release, even on 24/7 house arrest with an ankle monitor. He will remain in custody until his trial, where he will face charges of possession of a machine gun and possession of unregistered firearm.

Chief Magistrate Judge Deborah Smith said social media posts Graves made earlier this year, which including violent rhetoric targeting minority groups, factored strongly in her decision.

“Those are actions that express a will to act, not just opinions," Smith said.

According to an affidavit unsealed Tuesday, federal investigators received an anonymous online tip on April 28 that claimed Graves was posting racist extremist views on social media and might hurt someone.

FBI Special Agent Josh Rongitsch, who wrote the affidavit, read several of those posts on the witness stand Tuesday. Several contained racial slurs and violent imagery targeting Jews and Muslims, and others contained references to high-power rifles and extended capacity magazines, Rongitsch said.

The tweets included statements like “Let’s beat Hitler’s kill count,” “A synagogue to shoot up tbh," and a picture Rongitsch described as depicting a person with a traumatic head injury, posted alongside the caption, “The perfect treatment for Muslims. Fixes them up good and new.”


Graves reportedly told the Rongitsch in a later interview that the tweets were jokes, the agent testified.

“He couldn’t articulate a good response as to why that would ever be funny to anyone,” Rongistch said.

The same day the FBI was alerted to the tweets, investigators were notified about a package U.S. Customs and Border Control had intercepted containing a Glock full auto selector switch, an illegal device that allows the user to convert a Glock into a fully automatic weapon, Rongitsch said. The device is considered a “machine gun” under the law, he explained.

The package was addressed to a “Mike G” at a home in East Anchorage, which investigators later determined to be Graves’ father’s house.

Investigators delivered the package to Graves via an undercover postal worker, and when agents knocked on his door to confront him, he came out with a Glock 19 in his waistband and the full auto selector in his pocket, Rongitsch testified.

Investigators who searched Graves’ apartment discovered 11 firearms and two homemade silencers, which Rongitsch testified were illegal because silencers, he said, have to be federally registered.

One of the silencers, he said, had an image of a swastika and the numbers 1488, a symbol of Nazi ideology as well as the name of a white supremacist prison gang. Graves has no prior criminal history and denied being involved in any gang, Rongitsch said.

For Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Sayers-Fay, the combination of Graves’ alleged weapons amassing and the hateful tweets pointed to a potential mass shooter. She drew a comparison between Graves and other mass shooters who, like him, didn’t have a criminal history before committing his crime.

“We have a lot of people in our community who he has avowed he wants to shoot up or kill,” Sayers-Fay told the court.

Graves’ attorney, Allen Dayan, called that a “hasty generalization." Investigators found no evidence, he argued, that his client had ever actually hurt anyone, much less a member of a minority group. Nor did they have any history of violence to point to, he said.

“As far as you know, he’s just a loudmouthed kid who likes guns and spouts off on social media,” Dayan said.

The defense asked that Graves be placed on house arrest and be required to wear a tracking monitor. Being on house arrest wouldn’t keep Graves from ordering more illegal parts online, Sayers-Fay argued, and the ankle monitor wouldn’t stop him from going out and committing a violent crime, she said.

Smith, the judge, agreed.

“I think the court has to consider people mean what they say,” she said.

Correction: Earlier versions of this story reported Michael Graves’ age variously as 18 and 19. He recently turned 20, according to the prosecutor in the case.

Madeline McGee

Madeline McGee is a general assignment reporter for the Daily News.