Justice Department charges Washington state man who allegedly threatened members of Congress




Washington
CNN
 — 

The Justice Department has brought federal charges against a Washington state man who allegedly made multiple threats against members of Congress, using antisemitic slurs and saying he would “murder” lawmakers.

In announcing the charges, the department said Mark Leonetti, 48, left “more than 400 voicemails for members of Congress, several of which used slurs and were threatening” over the past two years despite warnings from law enforcement.

Leonetti faces seven charges for interstate threats he allegedly made against multiple senators and representatives over the past several months. Officials said Leonetti was arrested Wednesday. No lawyer is listed for him in court filings.

The threats come after several members of Congress and their families have been attacked, harassed or threatened in the past several months, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, who was violently assaulted in his home by a man who police say was looking for the speaker. On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced charges against an Ohio man who allegedly threatened to kill an Arizona state election official during the 2022 midterm election season.

According to the criminal complaint, a county behavioral health team in Oregon, where Leonetti previously resided, told law enforcement that Leonetti is a paranoid schizophrenic. Long and rambling voicemail transcripts, filled with violent and racist imagery, are included in the complaint filed this week.

According to a court filing requesting Leonetti remain behind bars pending a trial, prosecutors say US Capitol Police assigned additional security to some members of Congress in response to Leonetti’s alleged threats.

“Mr. Leonetti’s voicemails are treated with this caution because it is inherently difficult to evaluate when an individual making such threats will choose to act on them,” prosecutors wrote, pointing to the attack on Paul Pelosi. “The threats, standing alone, have thus instilled fear in their recipients and have disrupted governmental functions.”

Interstate threats are punishable by up to five years behind bars.



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