By Lynn Lieu
No, Tucson doesn’t have a monopoly on disgruntled types threatening members of Congress.
Charles Turner Habermann of Palm Springs stands accused of making threatening phone calls to the Seattle office of U.S. Rep. James A. McDermott. Habermann’s case is similar to a case that wrapped up last year where a Washington man was sentenced for making death threats to a U.S. senator.
“[Habermann] will be advised of the charge against him and the penalties,” says Emily Langlie, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office. “The magistrate judge here in Seattle will review the conditions of release pending trial. Any trial seeks to prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Habermann, 32, is in violation of Title 18 and is charged in Count 1 of the indictment for threatening to assault and murder a U.S. official and acting with intent to impede, intimidate or interfere with an official while engaged in the performance of official duties, or with the intent to retaliate against such official on account of the performance of official duties, according to Langlie.
The case is under FBI investigation. According to court documents, Habermann had left two voice messages at McDermott’s Seattle office. Habermann had threatened to assault and murder the congressman and his family. When questioned by FBI officials, Habermann had admitted to leaving the messages. According to court documents, Habermann said that he had been drinking alcohol before making the calls, but that he was “functioning” when he made the calls.
While the congressman could not directly comment on an ongoing case, he had released this statement to the Weekly: “I can confirm that a death threat was made against me and that the FBI, working with the Capitol Police, has arrested the individual responsible for the threat. Per the FBI’s advice, we are referring all inquiries related to this matter to the FBI’s Seattle office (206-622-0460). I have full confidence in the law enforcement agencies handling the case and remain focused on serving my constituents.”
Habermann said he was calling politicians to let them know that what they were doing and saying regarding spending taxpayer’s money was wrong and that he was upset about a healthcare bill and that he had no intention of hurting anyone, according to court documents.
If convicted, Habermann faces up to 10 years in prison.
According to Langlie, there was a prior case that was similar and prosecuted in this same district. On Oct. 22, 2010, Charles Alan Wilson was tried and sentenced for threatening Sen. Patty Murray. Wilson made a plea agreement several months later, admitting he had called the senator on multiple occasions, leaving expletive-laden threats in response to the passage of the Health Care Reform Act. Wilson was sentenced to one year, one day in prison and three years of supervised release.
In Wilson’s case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg had this to say in his sentencing memo: “Among the many virtues of our democratic system is the fact that American citizens are provided with numerous vehicles to appropriately express their political views—including opposition to certain laws or the votes cast by elected officials. Mr. Wilson was obviously entitled to his views in opposition to the Healthcare Reform Act. How he chose to express those views was unlawful and, in fact, threatened to undermine the very democratic system he claimed to be ‘protecting.’”