Car Salesman Quits Job To Fight ISIS On Twitter, Deemed ‘Mentally Ill’ By FBI, Jailed 14 Months Without Trial Before Being Cleared

Toby Lopez, a former car salesman from Delaware, spent 14 months in federal prison after he became obsessed with talking to ISIS jihadists on Twitter in a bid to free American hostages. Lopez’s obsession with fighting ISIS on Twitter began after he watched a CNN report and learned that the terrorists were active on the social media platform. The car salesman quickly began engaging individuals on Twitter and Skype who he felt were ISIS jihadists and started attempting to negotiate hostage release deals.

The Daily Mail reports that the ISIS obsession became so time consuming that Lopez left his job at the Toyota dealership to devote his attention to fighting ISIS online. After believing he was speaking with ISIS commander Omar al-Shishani, the former car salesman contacted the FBI. However, the FBI discovered Lopez wasn’t speaking to al-Shishani but rather a Kurdish immigrant living in Sweden attempting to extort money out of the man. Not wanting to believe his efforts were in vain, Lopez refused to believe that he wasn’t speaking to the ISIS commander and was eventually arrested for threatening FBI agents. Lopez would serve 14 months in federal prison after he was deemed unfit to stand trial due to mental illness associated with delusions of grandeur.

The entire ordeal began, according to the New York Times, when Lopez watched a CNN report outlining how ISIS fighters utilized Twitter and other social media platforms to communicate and recruit jihadists. Lopez says after losing a high school friend in Afghanistan and learning that American hostages were being beheaded, he was intrigued by the idea that these individuals could be speaking freely online.

“I was intrigued. What could they possibly be saying on Twitter?”

Lopez took to Twitter to see if he could identify any potential ISIS accounts and began initiating communication with individuals he believed were jihadists. Eventually, the obsession with ISIS became so severe that he quit his job at the car dealership and began spending all of his time online trying to negotiate hostage release deals with individuals he believed were in charge of the Islamic State.

After spending a significant amount of time speaking to a man he believed was Omar al-Shishani, an ISIS commander, Lopez was convinced that he could negotiate the release of American hostages. However, when Lopez contacted the counter-terrorism officials at the FBI, he did not receive the warm welcome he had hoped. The officials were not convinced that he was talking to real jihadists and instead believed he was being scammed. FBI officials were correct, but Lopez wanted them to take the concerns seriously. As his relationship with the FBI progressed and he continued to spend hours speaking with the man he believed to be al-Shishani on Skype, the FBI began to view Lopez as a security threat.

With the FBI refusing to listen to Lopez’s concerns, he became increasingly agitated and believed that American hostages’ lives were at stake. Therefore, in the span of 10 days, Lopez sent 80 messages to one of his FBI contacts with increasingly threatening tone.

The message that would ultimately land Lopez in federal prison for 14 months read, “Just remember whatever ends up happening to you… You deserved it.”

Following the threat against a federal agent, Lopez was arrested but was deemed too “mentally ill” to stand trial as the FBI psychologists claimed he was suffering from delusions of grandeur. The former car salesman would spend 14 months behind federal prison bars without ever having a trial before eventually being released on bail last month after a psychologist finally obtained his full health records and determined Lopez was not mentally ill at all.

Lopez and his lawyers note that during the first two psych evaluations, which deemed Lopez mentally ill, the psychologists did not have access to Lopez’s files. Therefore, when Lopez spoke of talking to jihadists online, the psychologists assumed he was delusional. However, once a third psychologist, who spoke about the evaluations, was able to review his entire file, it was determined that Lopez was not delusional but rightly believed he was speaking to ISIS members and could stand trial.

“Without having the documents,I would have concluded that his account of this entire series of events sounded both grandiose and delusional. Having reviewed these documents, however, I would not describe his account as delusional.”

Following his release, the United States attorney’s office in Delaware took an unusual step and dropped all charge against Lopez, noting that the “facts and law support their decision” to drop the case. Now Lopez is speaking out about being incarcerated for 14 months without a trial and the helplessness he felt.

“If I hadn’t gotten another evaluation, I might still be sitting down at Butner, with a needle in my arm. This was the United States of America, flexing its muscles on me.”

Tana Stevens, Mr. Lopez’s sister, notes that while her brother may have been speaking to fake jihadists, he truly believed they were real and that he had an obligation to report it to the FBI and they kidnapped him over it.

“All over you see those billboards that say, ‘See Something; Say Something.’ He tried to do that. And they basically kidnapped him for 14 months.”

Although the FBI has claimed that Lopez absolutely was not speaking with real ISIS leaders, it seems since his release, Toby is still not convinced he was not involved in the hostage negotiations noting that the FBI is “scared to death” that ISIS will confirm his involvement in the negotiations in the future, proving he was not delusional.

The FBI is scared to death that Isis will confirm my involvement with hostage negotiations..they should be because it’s coming.

— toby lopez (@delawarecoast) April 24, 2016

What do you think about Toby Lopez’s arrest by the FBI for delusions of grandeur and threatening an FBI agent?

[Image via Twitter]