Contra Costa County jury handed down five guilty verdicts this week in the case of Ross Farca, a 25-year-old who threatened to kill Jews and assembled an assault rifle that police say they found hidden in a bunk bed at his mother’s home.
The lead prosecutor described him as “a serious danger to members of the Jewish faith.”
The 12-person jury convened for about a day before announcing its decision Wednesday afternoon; barring a successful appeal, Farca could be sentenced to more than nine years in prison, minus time served. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 29.
The case captured the attention of the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County two years ago after Farca posted on the gaming website Steam about committing a mass shooting targeting Jews.
The posts, made in June of 2019, came just five weeks after the Chabad of Poway shooting, and fewer than three months after a 28-year-old man attacked Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 men, women and children using semi-automatic weapons and livestreaming it online.
“I currently own an AR15 semi auto rifle but I can buy/make the auto sear and get the M16 parts kit,” Farca wrote under a screen name that was only a string of numbers, describing modifications he might make to convert a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic one. “What do you think of me doing what [Poway shooter] John Earnest tried to do, but with a Nazi uniform, an unregistered and illegally converted ‘machine gun’ and actually livestreaming it with Nazi music? I would get a body count of like 30 kikes and then like 5 police officers because I would also decide to fight to the death,” he wrote.
A Steam tipster reported the post to the FBI; after finding evidence in a database that Farca had purchased a firearm, Concord police searched his home, where he lived with his mother. Police turned up an AR-15-style assault rifle partially hidden under a bedsheet, 13 high-capacity rifle magazines, ammunition, a sword, and books about Nazism.
Farca has been in and out of jail pre-trial since late 2019.
Years of legal proceedings saw Farca meander from state to federal court after being brought up on a separate, federal charge to which he pled guilty in April of 2020. The state trial, which began on Nov. 1, took less than two weeks to resolve after being broken up by the Thanksgiving holiday.
The prosecution called police officers who were present during the June 2019 search, as well as a weapons expert who testified that Farca had modified his firearm “frame” or receiver — legally purchased at Glaser Arms in Brentwood — using parts he ordered online, including a pistol grip and telescopic sight, turning it into a weapon of war.
Though prosecutors initially latched hate crime enhancements onto the weapons charges, they were thrown out after a judge said they required a crime “with a victim,” such as assault or vandalism. Prosecutors instead charged a misdemeanor for violating the civil rights of Jews.
The charge relied on testimony from Debbie Kirsch, executive director of Temple Isaiah in Lafayette. Kirsch said learning the details of the case alarmed synagogue members and led them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to employ armed security guards, which the shul decided in August 2019 it would continue to do indefinitely.
“It was very close to home, so we were concerned,” she said.
Farca’s attorney, Cynthia Scofield of the public defender’s office, argued in court that her client was not making an actual threat — that Farca did not intend to carry out a mass killing. Instead with the Steam posts he was engaging in a type of “trolling” behavior common on the internet, provocative speech intended to get a rise out of people. She described Farca during her opening argument as “raised on the internet.”
In a phone call with J. Thursday, Scofield said she was “very disappointed in the verdict” and that Farca was planning an appeal.
She said the Steam posts were “taken out of context” considering he made other posts that were “anti-Nazi” and “anti-white supremacy.” She also stressed she was dismayed the jury did not take into account Farca’s disability as someone with autism. She said a psychologist testified at trial that while Farca tested average-to-high-average in intelligence, he tested extremely low in social skills, at a 6-year-old level.
“The verdict did not reflect Mr. Farca’s limitations,” she said.
In an emotional moment during the trial, Farca’s mother cried as she testified, describing her son’s diagnosis of autism at an early age, and how it had been impossible for him to hold down a steady job, forcing him to live at home. His attorneys have also said he has obsessive-compulsive disorder and misophonia, a heightened sensitivity to sound not uncommon among people with autism.
Ross Farca’s criminality disrupted the lives of countless members of the Jewish faith within our community.
Farca briefly joined the U.S. military in 2017 but was discharged for fighting. He has shown a fascination with war and weapons — his online posts demonstrated a granular knowledge about military weapons and World War II history.
The guilty verdicts represented a win for a young Contra Costa County prosecutor in Amber White, who was admitted to the California bar just two years ago. She celebrated the result in a statement Wednesday.
“I commend the quick investigative efforts of law enforcement to track the online activity back to Farca and thank the members of the jury for weighing the evidence and finding Mr. Farca responsible,” White said in the statement. “Mr. Farca is a serious danger to members of the Jewish faith.”
Farca was convicted on four felonies; two counts for the illegal manufacture and possession of an assault weapon, and two counts for threatening a police officer, which occurred during a probation search in October 2020 on one of the occasions when he was out on bail.
He was also convicted of a misdemeanor — a violation of civil rights for “oppress[ing] and threaten[ing] Jewish people in the free exercise and enjoyment” of their right to worship.
The maximum prison sentence for the five counts combined is nine years, eight months, according to White. Farca will be credited for time already served.
County District Attorney Diana Becton also celebrated the verdict, which had garnered significant media attention in its early stages.
“Ross Farca’s criminality disrupted the lives of countless members of the Jewish faith within our community,“ Becton said. “hate crimes and threats of this magnitude will not be tolerated.”
The San Francisco office of the ADL also commended the verdict.
“ADL hails the jury conviction of Ross Farca on California threat, weapons, and hate crime charges. Farca espoused intense hatred towards Jews and expressed a desire to mass murder both Jews and responding law enforcement.
“We thank District Attorney Diana Becton and the Concord Police Department for their tireless efforts to see justice done.”
Speaking with J. Thursday afternoon, Kirsch shared a sense of relief and an appreciation for those responsible for seeing the case through, beginning with the anonymous online tipster.
“I don’t even know how to express how grateful we are, first, to the person who reported [the posts] to the FBI,” she said, “and to the Concord police who interrupted his plans.”
“To get a conviction without him having to act, with no bodily injury — hopefully that’s good for him, too,” she said, referring to Farca. “He doesn’t have a death on his conscience.”