TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man’s death threats against U.S. Rep. Jake Laterner came from God, the Kansas Republican told a jury Thursday, ignoring fears about magic, witches, extraterrestrial strife and a war for souls.
Federal prosecutors say Chase Neal, 32, of Lawrence, in northeast Kansas, said an afternoon voicemail with the congressman’s Topeka office included “I’m going to kill you” directed at Laterner. Neal’s trial comes amid a sharp increase in threats against elected officials and their families.
Representing himself in court, Neal admitted to sending that message and more death threats to other people the next day. But he told the jury that he was only the messenger, telling Latterner and other officials that they would face death by an act of God, an attack on God’s creation, like a hurricane or tornado.
“I’m not going to go after him for a violent crime,” Neal said.
U.S. District Judge Holly Teter Neal, acting as his own attorney, presented the case from the witness stand. Behind him, he interrupted his remarks to access documents on four large screens and discuss with the judge and prosecutors what evidence he might present. Prosecutors did not investigate, which paved the way for the closure of the statements.
Accused Threatening a public official is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The judge must decide whether the June 5 voicemail represents a genuine threat intended to interfere with LaTurner’s official duties.
Threats against members of Congress They have increased The riots at the US Capitol from January 6, 2021. In October, an intruder beat former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband to death with a hammer in their San Francisco home.
Local school board members And Electoral staff They also faced harassment and threats across the country. Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, arrested an unsuccessful Republican legislative candidate this week. A series of shots Targeting the homes or offices of elected Democratic officials.
In Neil’s case, he was concerned about the insect war in A The story of May 13 On the Kansas Reflect news channel, a legislative debate in which Western Kansas lawmaker colleagues urged Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to take action to limit public health officials’ powers in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The battle is real, y’all,” said Republican state Rep. Tatum Lee. We are fighting for the soul of our country.
In court on Thursday, Neill told jurors that he valued his life and was required by God to act “when the trumpet sounds”.
He also showed the jury a LinkedIn page for himself, saying he has handled “over 400 million cases of highly magical disappearances.”
“I have a duty to our creator,” Neal said.
Laterner testified Wednesday that the June 5 voicemail made him worry about the safety of his family and employees and prompted him to beef up security at his home and Topeka office. Cross-examination by Neil The congressman said he considered some of Neal’s language “ridiculous,” but added, “I’m more focused on the death threats.”
A U.S. magistrate judge refused to release Neal from prison, according to an August order, saying Neal had suffered a head injury four or five years ago, “known as a concussion.” “God came straight to me in 2018,” Neal told jurors Thursday.
But the trial judge ruled last month that Neal was mentally competent to stand trial and was able to follow what was going on in court and assist his lawyers. She accepted his request to appear as his own attorney starting Wednesday.
Neil, who converted to Judaism, says his special relationship with God causes natural phenomena, including hurricanes and fires. He said he texted Laterner even though he knew he might be indicted.
“I’m trying to explain how I relate to God, and it’s a difficult explanation,” Neal told the jury. “I apologize.”
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