Social media celebrity Bryan Silva, who prompted the first SWAT standoff of the year, was sentenced to one year and nine months of jail time October 18 in Charlottesville Circuit Court for possessing and brandishing an illegal firearm and disobeying the court.
Silva’s attorney, John March, asked for a lesser sentence, arguing that the four months Silva already served were a “wake-up call” and that he is not the gun-toting, rapping “gangsta” he once portrayed himself as online.
Silva became famous with a video he created on Vine—a site where users post seconds-long videos to the web—in which he says “gratata,” imitating the sound of a gun. Although he has since gained a following of millions of people, March says they aren’t celebrating him—they’re mocking him.
“He is the butt of the joke,” March said at the sentencing. And when the defendant’s brother, Phillip Silva, testified, he described the “slew of Internet hate” his younger brother received, which led to bouts of depression.
The night before Silva allegedly pointed a loaded gun at his then-girlfriend, who was 17, March said his client was under an unexpected amount of stress, because the girlfriend told him she thought she was pregnant.
Judge Richard Moore said excuses can’t be made for the “disturbing case,” in which the girl feared for her life and fled to a neighbor’s house where she called police and the standoff was initiated.
“Needless to say, this is one of the most unusual cases I’ve ever seen,” the judge said, adding that the focus should not be on Silva’s internet persona, but on the fact that he pointed a loaded gun at another person. “This is real life. This is not pretend on the Internet.”
But in his testimony, Phillip Silva suggested that perhaps some elements were pretend, and he’s “certain” that some of the photos of the defendant with weapons, which were pulled from his Facebook page, showed him with fake guns.
In a February 11 preliminary hearing, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania said police found a 9mm handgun in Silva’s house after the standoff that matched a gun Silva can be seen holding in his Facebook photos. Both the gun police found and the one in the photo had a LaserMax mounted on it, which matched the description of what Silva’s girlfriend said he pointed at her that morning.
Judge Moore agreed to impose the maximum sentence of five years for possessing a gun as a convicted felon, 12 months for brandishing it and 86 days for not obeying all probation regulations. He suspended all but one year and nine months, and Silva has already served four months.
He was ordered to report to jail immediately, despite pleas from family and friends for a delayed sentencing. “I love you, Bryan,” three voices called out.
Outside the courtroom, Silva’s brother and mother watched for him to be led into the back of a police car. Handcuffed, he spewed profanities, though he told the judge he had changed, and was “deeply sorry” just minutes earlier.
When halfway to the police vehicle, Silva abruptly turned to the media and shouted, “Free me.”