California man faces five years in prison for death, rape threats against Blizzard and players

'Keep silencing me in Heroes of the Storm and I may or may not pay you a visit with an AK47.'

California resident Stephen Cebula, 28, has been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for sending rape and death threats to Heroes of the Storm players and the game's publisher, Blizzard Entertainment. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.

On July 3rd, after sending threatening messages to fellow HotS players -- including racist comments, promises to visit them with assault weapons, and raping the other players' children -- Cebula was stripped of chat functionality by Blizzard's moderation team. Cebula then sent messages to Blizzard over Facebook, indicating he had looked up the location of the company's offices and that Blizzard should be careful, or he might visit them with an AK47 "amongst some other 'fun' tools." Blizzard notified the FBI, and on July 7th, an investigation was launched. The Bureau arrested Cebula less than a week later, on July 12th.

Polygon has obtained the U.S. District Court filing of the indictment, including affidavits from the officers responsible for his arrest and trial exhibits including the messages Cebula sent to HotS players and Blizzard. I'm sure I don't need to tell you, but these messages are pretty graphic and horrible -- they're just also sadly common for anyone accustomed to playing games online. The difference here is that Cebula's threats were actionable enough to prompt a swift response from a federal agency.

The more uncomfortable details of the indictment are repeated mentions of Cebula's sexual threats involving children and the admission that he fantasized about raping his five-year-old niece (who lived with him). If you read through the entire chatlogs present in the court filing, you can see he threatens to rape a child as a direct response to his teammates' poor performance in a match, followed by a threat to "kill all the children in Disneyland." I'm going out on a bit of a limb here, but I suspect it was the specific threats relating to children which prompted the FBI to move as quickly as it did, even if it was the shooting threat to Blizzard employees which sparked the investigation.

Cebula is presently being held without bail due to the "significant" nature of his threats and what the state has deemed mental health issues, including suicidal ideation. He is currently scheduled to enter a plea on July 26th, with a trial to follow thereafter.

Below: the complete court filing detailing the FBI's investigation and Cebula's arrest.

(h/t Polygon.)

Cebula by Brian Crecente on Scribd