Federal law enforcement arrested a California man today and charged him with making death threats to U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-WA, according to federal authorities.
Charles Turner Habermann, 32, of Palm Springs, California, was arrested by the FBI this morning, after a criminal complaint was filed charging him with threatening a federal official, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington.
Habermann is alleged to have made two expletive-laden, threatening phone calls to the Seattle office of Congressman Jim McDermott on Dec. 9, 2010. In the first call recorded on the office answering system, Habermann threatens to kill McDermott, his friends and family. In the second call Habermann says he will hire someone to put McDermott in the trash.
In the messages, he disparages and threatens McDermott and other Democrats for their views on tax cuts and unemployment insurance, federal authorities said.
We are blessed to live in a country that guarantees and protects the freedom to disagree with our government and speak our minds, said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. That protection, however, does not extend to threats or acts of violence. Those actions are intended to silence debate, not further it. They instill fear not just in the immediate victims, but in many who might hold the same views or take the same course. Such threats are crimes, and the individuals who make them must be held accountable.
Federal authorities made the arrest just days after the massacre in Tucson, Arizona on Jan. 8, in which a lone gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, allegedly took the lives of six people, including federal Judge John Roll, and wounded 14 others, five seriously, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, who remains in critical condition.
According to published reports, the FBI said the complaint was already being drafted before the Tucson shootings.
In the transcript of one call to McDermott's office, Habermann said, He thinks he can steal money from people and give it away to losers and get away with it. It continues, I'll (expletive) hunt that guy down and I'll (expletive) get rid of him, according to published reports.
Habermann is due for his initial appearance today at 3 p.m. Pacific Time in federal court in Riverside, California, authorities said.
Habermann was investigated in March 2010 for similar conduct involving threats to a California state assemblyman. In that instance, Habermann went to the assemblyman's office to discuss the health care bill and was escorted out. Following the office meeting, Habermann left two threatening voicemail messages. He was interviewed by the California Highway Patrol, and was issued a warning about his threatening conduct, federal authorities said.
Threatening a federal official is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The case is being investigated by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mike Dion.