Federal authorities arrested a 74-year-old New York man Friday for allegedly threatening two U.S. senators over their votes for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Ronald DeRisi of Smithtown, New York, is accused of making phone calls to the offices of the unnamed senators between Sept. 27 and Oct. 8, and delivering vulgar death threats.
The New York Post on Saturday identified the senators as Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“He’s a dead man,” one September call said, according to an investigator’s affidavit. “Nine millimeter, side of the [expletive] head. If [expletive] Kavanaugh gets in, he’s dead [expletive] meat. Actually, even if Kavanaugh doesn’t get in, he’s dead [expletive] meat.”
On Oct. 6, the day of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, DeRisi is alleged to have told another senator, “You better pray this guy don’t get in.” Calling again less than an hour and a half later, he allegedly said, “I’m gonna get you.”
U.S. Capitol Police used phone and bank records to trace the calls back to DeRisi, according to the affidavit. DeRisi previously pleaded guilty in 2015 to making threatening phone calls to a person in Long Island.
DeRisi had not yet retained or been assigned a lawyer, according to court records. The New York Times reported that a federal judge on Friday ordered DeRisi be detained and undergo a psychological evaluation.
“Representative democracy cannot work if elected officials are threatened with death for simply doing their job,” said Richard Donoghue, the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York. “The First Amendment — the pinnacle of American achievement — protects debate, disagreement and dissent, not death threats.”
The charges against DeRisi highlight a spate of illegal political threats that have emerged from opponents of Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation. A 27-year-old former Senate staffer was arrested earlier this month for allegedly posting the phone numbers and personal addresses of three Republican senators who supported Kavanaugh. An unknown person mailed a threatening letter mentioning Kavanaugh to Collins’ home in Bangor, Maine, falsely claiming that the letter contained poison.
Those incidents, as well as the legal but aggressive tactics of activists opposed to Kavanaugh, have led Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and other Republicans to accuse Democrats of “mob” behavior. But the activity has not been confined to one side.
A Florida man was charged on Oct. 3 after allegedly threatening to shoot members of Congress and their families if Kavanaugh was not confirmed.
According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, James Royal Patrick Jr. posted on social media that if Kavanaugh were not confirmed, “whoever I think is to blame may God have mercy on their soul.”
Speaking Thursday in Montana, President Donald Trump praised a Republican congressman’s assault last year of a news reporter who sought to ask him a question about a pending health care bill. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of — he’s my guy,” Trump said of Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Montana.
Gianforte pleaded guilty to the May 2017 assault, which took place days before a hotly contested special election.
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