Man to be jailed for death threats against GOP House member

Sep 9, 2021, 1:31 PM | Updated: 2:03 pm

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — A man who threatened to kill a member of Congress from Maryland over Republicans’ baseless claims of a rigged presidential election was sentenced on Thursday to serve eight consecutive weekends in jail and six months of home confinement.

U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett also ordered Sidhartha Kumar Mathur, 35, of West Friendship, Maryland, to perform 100 hours of community service. Mathur threatened Rep. Andy Harris, the only Republican member of Maryland’s congressional delegation, in voicemail and webmail messages.

Harris said the death threats against him and his family terrified his wife and children, leaving them afraid to leave their home and “basically imprisoned.”

“I’m in an elected office. I expect threats like this may occur, especially in the current toxic political environment. That certainly doesn’t make it right, but threatening a family and children is particularly wrong,” Harris said during Thursday’s remote sentencing hearing.

Mathur apologized for his actions and told the judge that he hopes to be a “antidote to the root dysfunction that is going on in the world outside” and a “unifying force” against polarization.

Bennett ordered Mathur to serve his first of eight consecutive weekends in jail starting on Oct. 1.

“You became part of the toxic environment, and it is totally unacceptable in a civilized society,” the judge said. “Elected officials and their families should not be subjected to that kind of treatment in any way, shape or form.”

Prosecutors and defense lawyers jointly recommended a sentence of two years of probation instead of a prison term. Prosecutors also asked for Mathur to serve six months of home detention and 100 hours of community service.

Mathur was charged in December with threatening a federal official. He pleaded guilty in June to making false statements.

Harris was the only member of the state’s congressional delegation who supported former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election based on unfounded claims of voter fraud.

In December, Harris was one of 126 House Republicans who signed a brief supporting a Texas lawsuit that sought to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit.

In a message submitted through the congressman’s website on Dec. 10, Mathur threatened to kill the lawmaker and blow up his office “if you try to take my vote away,” according to prosecutors.

“I know where you and your family lives. You will be ended,” he wrote, referring to the congressman as an “animal that needs to be tortured and skinned alive.”

Mathur submitted the message using contact information and an address for a former neighbor and classmate, but investigators traced the threat to the internet service at Mathur’s home, prosecutors said.

About two minutes after he sent the webmail message, Mathur called the congressman’s district office and left a voicemail message in which he threatened to slit his throat and kill his family “if you even mess with my vote,” according to prosecutors. Mathur also mentioned the Republicans who supported the Texas election lawsuit. Investigators traced the call to a phone number registered in Mathur’s name.

When U.S. Capitol Police investigators questioned him at his home on Dec. 11, Mathur said he left the threatening voicemail message “out of anger” and wouldn’t hurt anybody, according to prosecutors. But he falsely denied making the webmail threat, prosecutors said.

Mathur didn’t have a criminal record before this case.

“Sadly, political violence of all stripes has become a clear and present danger to public safety and the functioning of our democracy,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing. “The defendant’s conduct showed his rejection of that democracy and his willingness to resort to repeated violent threats when duly elected representatives take actions with which he disagrees.”

Prosecutors compared Mathur’s actions to those of a Maryland man who pleaded guilty in February 2020 to threatening to kill a Democratic member of Congress from Florida who sponsored vaccination requirements for public school students. That defendant, Darryl Albert Varnum, was sentenced to six months of home detention.

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Man to be jailed for death threats against GOP House member