Bruce Shore, a 51-year-old unemployed man from Philadelphia, pleaded not guilty to felony email harassment on Friday in a Kentucky federal court, where he was arraigned for sending angry emails to Sen. Jim Bunning.
Shore emailed Bunning's office on Feb. 26 after seeing the Kentucky Republican complain on C-SPAN that a debate over extending unemployment benefits had caused him to miss a college basketball game. The debate went late because Bunning himself prevented it from moving to a vote. The congressional delay ultimately caused several jobless aid programs, including extended unemployment benefits and subsidies for COBRA health insurance, to lapse briefly.
Shore, as a recipient of unemployment benefits, took Bunning's blockade personally.
"If I do NOT get my check next week I WILL HAVE NO FOOD AND WILL BE ON THE STREET," said one email Shore sent from his Yahoo account. "IF THIS POLITICAL GRANDSTANDING DOES NOT END TODAY - WE WILL COME TO YOUR OFFICES AND MAKE OUR POINT."
Shore told HuffPost he also sent several messages via the contact form on Bunning's website, signing everything as "Brad Shore" from Kentucky. He said he has no record of those messages, but that FBI agents had printed them out when they interviewed him in March.
"I made up a story, I said what if a person's dying of cancer, and he loses his COBRA and he's on the street, and he has children -- these are the things that are happening," said Shore last week when asked if he could remember what he'd written. "I didn't threaten anybody."
Shore said he thought that after the FBI agents realized he had no violent intentions the case would go away.
The May 13 grand jury indictment (PDF) does not say what Shore wrote that crossed the line. The language of the indictment is taken directly from the statute -- it says only that Shore "did utilize a telecommunications device, that is a computer, whether or not communication ensued, without disclosing his identity and with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, and harass any person who received the communication."
Shore said he is not sure what exactly he's in trouble for. His public defender in Kentucky told HuffPost he expects to see the government's evidence before the July 27 trial -- but he hasn't seen it yet. Shore faces up to two years in prison and a $250,000 maximum fine.
The Associated Press reported that a magistrate judge released Shore on a $10,000 bond, ordering him to have no contact with the Bunning family (the senator's son David is a federal judge in Covington, where Shore was arraigned). The judge also ordered Shore to undergo a substance-abuse evaluation when he returns to Philadelphia because he admitted to frequently smoking pot.
Shore spent a short time in prison after pleading guilty in 1995 to 35 counts of burglary committed with his then-girlfriend. The local press called them a "Bonnie & Clyde" couple. Shore doesn't want to go back to prison. "I made a mistake," he said. "I was wrong. I paid the price. I turned my life around."
Here is the full text of the one email Shore said he sent from his Yahoo account. It went to several Bunning staffers.
I am at a LOSS of words for SENATOR BUNTING blocking unemployment benefits for me and my children. If I do NOT get my check next week I WILL HAVE NO FOOD AND WILL BE ON THE STREET.
What kind of people are you? 10 Billion goes to the war every couple days and to Wall street weekly. I want my benefits or there will be people starving and dying.
What is wrong with you people. NOW is NOT the time to play politics with childrens lives.
ARE you'all insane. NO checks equal no food for me. DO YOU GET IT??
IF THIS POLITICAL GRANDSTANDING DOES NOT END TODAY - WE WILL COME TO YOUR OFFICES AND MAKE OUR POINT. YOU ARE PLAYING A LIFE AND DEATH GAME HERE.
DO YOU GET IT.
Louisville, KY 40202