Federal prosecutors have obtained a guilty plea from Patrick Angelo, a 28-year-old New York state resident who admittedly threatened to kill his congressman and the congressman’s family unless the lawmaker supported net neutrality.
Angelo, of Syracuse, pleaded guilty in Buffalo federal court Tuesday to one charge of interstate communication of a threat in connection with a Oct. 2017 voice mail message left with the D.C. office of Rep. John Katko, New York Republican.
“Listen Mr. Katko, if you support net neutrality, I will support you. But if you don’t support net neutrality, I will find you and your family and I will kill…you…all. Do you understand?” a person said in the message.
“I will literally find all…of…you and your progeny and t- just wipe you from the face of the earth. Net neutrality is more important than the defense of the United States. Net neutrality is more important than free speech. Net neutrality is more important than health care. Net neutrality is literally the basis of the new society. That even if you don’t understand, how important it is, net neutrality is literally the basis of the new…free…society. So if you don’t support it, I am willing to lay down my li- (recording ends),” the person said, according to a transcript filed by federal prosecutors.
The congressman’s office received the voice mail on Oct. 23 and notified U.S. Capitol Police, according to court documents. Capitol Police subsequently launched an investigation with the FBI that resulted in authorities tracing the threatening message to a Verizon phone number registered to Angelo, FBI special agent Melissa Lewis wrote in an affidavit filed by prosecutors.
Angelo met with authorities the following month and initially declined leaving the message, but eventually he admitted having called the congressman’s office because he was upset about net neutrality, “telecom companies tiering internet service providers to provide faster service to certain companies,” he told authorities, according to court documents.
“I used strong language, probably something that could be construed as a threat…” Angelo told agents, according to prosectors. “I’m sure they didn’t appreciate it.”
A representative for Mr. Katko’s office did not immediately returned messages seeking comment on the plea. Security surrounding the congressman was increased as a result of the incident, according to the Justice Department.
Randi Bianco, a public defender representing Angelo, declined to comment when contacted Wednesday.
“While citizens are certainly entitled to communicate their views on issues of importance to them to their elected officials . . . there are and must be bounds to the manner in which such views may be expressed,” said U.S. Attorney James Kennedy, a prosecutor for the Western District of New York.
“By making threats to the lives of Congressman Katko and his family, the defendant potentially faces not only a significant prison sentence but also, as a convicted felon, a loss of his right to vote. Ironically, yet fittingly, by abandoning rationale discourse and resorting to threats against a public official, the defendant has essentially rendered himself a mute in the political process. As a democratic republic, we cannot and will not tolerate true threats against those in public office,” Mr. Kennedy said in a statement.
Angelo faces a maximum sentence of five years behind bars and a $250,000 fine when he’s sentenced later this year. His sentencing hearing is currently scheduled for June 21.
The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 in December to repeal net-neutrality protections passed during the Obama administration. The FCC is expected to officially publish the rule change in the national Register as early as this Thursday, ABC News reported this week.
Attorneys general in several states have previously vowed to sue the FCC if the repeal happens as planned.
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