A 42-year-old Colorado Springs man arrested and charged for allegedly threatening a Colorado lawmaker over stricter gun bills that she is sponsoring, intends to fight those charges in court, The Associated Press reports.
Franklin Sain is charged with attempting to influence a public servant, a felony, as well as harassment involving ethnic intimidation, a misdemeanor for several emails and voicemail messages he allegedly sent to Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), a sponsor of a number of gun bills currently being debated in the Colorado legislature, according to a statement from the Denver DA office.
Via the Denver DA office:
The charges allege that between February 13, 2013 and February 21, 2013, Sain sent numerous threatening emails and a voice mail message with the intent to alter or affect the Representative’s opinion or action. The charges further allege that the communication was intended to intimidate or harass the victim because of her race.
However Sain's attorney says those messages are constitutionally protected speech, The AP reports:
Franklin Sain's lawyer told a judge Friday that Sain admits sending emails to and calling state Rep. Rhonda Fields. Lawyer Siddhartha Rathod says that while the messages were offensive, they weren't threatening, and are constitutionally protected political speech.
Rathod also says Sain wasn't responsible for a letter sent to Fields that said, "There Will Be Blood!"
He plans to file a motion challenging the charges.
If convicted of the felony charge, Sain could spend up to six years in prison.
Last week, Sain's attorney Siddhartha Rathod said that his client's messages to Rep. Fields were simply free speech and protected under law. Siddhartha spoke to 9News' Will Ripley but didn't say much except for a single phrase that he kept repeating to Ripley as an answer to nearly every question asked:
Mr. Sain is a decorated Iraqi war veteran who fought for our First and Second Amendment rights and his First and Second Amendment rights are being trampled upon. Nothing he said was illegal.
Rathod's law firm, Rathod Mohamedbhai, released this statement about Sain's messages to Fields:
Mr. Franklin Sain has retained the law firm of Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC. We are deeply concerned about the government's retaliation against Mr. Sain for his protected First Amendment political speech. We appreciate Representative Rhonda Fields's service to our community; however, we remind you that Mr. Sain valiantly served his country as a decorated Iraqi war veteran. Representative Fields appears to be furthering her political agenda by trampling on Mr. Sain's constitutionally protected free speech in order to infringe on all Coloradans' Second Amendment rights.
But does it matter if Sain "is a decorated Iraqi war veteran" who "served valiantly?"
David Beller, a defense attorney with Denver law firm Recht-Kornfeld, told Fox31 that Sain's service in the military is essentially irrelevant with regards to this case.
“Just because you fought for Constitutional rights doesn’t mean you have any expanded Constitutional rights than any other American,” Beller said to Fox31.
Beller also said, in no uncertain terms, that no one who is educated in the law would call Sain's alleged statements "free speech" because threats are not protected by the Constitution.
Rep. Fields attorney Craig Silverman released this statement on Facebook responding to Rathod's claims that Sain's statements are not, in fact, threats:
Representative Rhonda Fields is the victim of criminal and despicable threats made by Franklin Sain. It is outrageous and offensive that Mr. Sain, through his lawyers, now continues this effort to frighten and bully Rhonda Fields. No Coloradan should have to endure terroristic threats of the kind made by Mr. Sain. Our democracy will not function well if government decision makers are subjected to this kind of brute intimidation.
Rep. Fields spoke out on the messages she received and how seriously she took them on 850 KOA Tuesday saying, "I do not know him. All I know is that the kinds of things that he said were very inappropriate, alarming and very intimidating."
"At first I was really taken back by the tone and the language in it, especially the racial overtones," Rep. Fields added. "I've just never seen anything like that before. No one has ever said those things or written those kinds of things towards me in the last two and a half years that I have been serving the state. So, I was like, 'Wow, this is unbelievable.'"
SofTec Solutions, where Sain is employed as COO, certainly took the allegations seriously as well -- the company fired him as the allegations came to light. When Sain was first arrested, the company posted on Facebook that Sain had been suspended:
SofTec Solutions, Inc. has been informed of allegations against our employee, Mr. Frank Sain. We are shocked to learn of these allegations and are taking this matter very seriously. If true, these actions are highly inappropriate and will not be tolerated. Pending SofTec’s investigation into this matter, Mr. Sain has been suspended immediately from further duties at SofTec. SofTec Solutions is a minority-owned, small business and we employ a large diverse workforce. We will absolutely not tolerate any racial, sexual, gender-based slurs or threats of violence by employees.
Rep. Fields told Fox31 that she is scared for her life and that she has taken a restraining order out against Sain. “I’m still very afraid, just kind of shaken, my soul."
9News obtained Sain's arrest affidavit revealing the full scope of threats allegedly left by Sain over the course of nine days. The use of racist and provocative language is prevalent throughout the messages, however the messages appear to get more confrontational by the ninth day. WARNING: The language used is explicit and extremely offensive.
All misspelled words and incorrect grammar usage appears as written in the affidavit. Some offensive words have been censored.
An email sent to Fields, dated Wednesday, Feb. 13, 10:08 a.m. with a subject line of "GUN CONTROL" reads:
THANKS N----- C---! You really think passing any more laws will stop gun violence? You and that other N----- OBAMA are living in fantasy land. Chicago and DC have the most strict gun laws in the nation and more people die from gun violence than anywhere. You f---ing c---s are pathetic excuse for civil servants. Hell, n-----s love shooting themselves with GATS, isn't that what your people call it. What you have done here is creater criminals out of law abiding citizens, and put yourself out of a job. You politicians have no idea what you are even doing anyway, do you know how long it takes some to change a magazine, less than a second, so what if some with experience decides to flip out and bring their gun in with 5 or so 10 round magazines, they can do the same amount of damage. Limiting magazine sizes is stupididty, [sic] and will not work. I for one have 100+ 30 ronds mags and 150 round drums. I will never give those up and I am far from being some whack job. What I am pissed off at c--- n------ who know nothing about what they are doing and knee jerk react rather than look for a solution to fix the problem and enforce existing laws. We will all work very hard to ensure there is no job for you 2014. We will make it our mission to ensure each Democrat who supports this law is also out of a job.
Later that day on Feb. 13 another message from the same email arrived in Rep. Fields inbox reading:
Do you actually think that Americans will put up with this... I gurantee there is not enough law enforcement, or military to stop an all out overthrow of this government if you or that N----- President tries to take our guns... Guarantee we will make World War I and II look like childs play, many will die... be prepared...
On Feb. 14 and through most of Feb. 15, the emails are charged with racist epithets and also become less detailed, but then a final email on the late afternoon of Feb. 15 with more detailed threats arrived, according to the arrest affidavit:
Watching you live, you are a pathetic N----- C--- alnog with MCCANN, two c---- who are way overdue a good f---ing... and hopefully somebody Gifords both of your asses with a gun....... you are both pieces of monkey sh-- who have no right or reason to be in the position you are.... f--- off c---......
The final email references Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver) along with Rep. Fields, who are co-sponsoring House Bill 1229 which calls for universal background checks for all gun purchases, including private sales.
It also references former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head by 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner outside of a grocery store in 2011 during a meeting with constituents.
The affidavit then says on Thursday, Feb. 21 at around 11:00 a.m., Rep. Fields office received a threatening letter in the mail, one of the most deranged and terrifying of all the messages as it also references Fields' daughter:
Rhonda Fields, N----- C---, Mother of -----, Death to Both, All N----- Back to Africa, F--- you, F--- Your Laws, I Keep my 30 Round Magazines, There Will Be Blood!, I'm Coming For You, N----- B----
The affidavit goes on to describe threatening voicemail messages allegedly left by Sain. However, Sain, in the affidavit, told police that although he does use the email that the threatening, racist emails came from and admitted to sending the Colorado lawmaker emails, he claims he did not make any threats in those emails. "I did not make any threats in my emails," Sain stated to the police. "I know my emails are traceable and I wouldn't have done that... I'm just voicing some frustrations about a topic I consider sacred, especially after wearing a uniform and fighting for this country. When you have media pushing blame on gun owners, that just brings my emotions out."
Sain also said that sent some of the emails while watching Rep. Fields on television, but Sain denied that he used such explicit language and also denied that he was a racist. "I don't use words like that. C--- and other racist names, I don't sue that word when I talk. I'm not a racist. Those emails are not who I am."
The email referencing the shooting of Giffords and the final physical letter -- although the letter has not been definitively linked to Sain, but arrived during the same period the emails did according to the arrest affidavit -- appear to be the most outwardly threatening, suggesting physical violence in the email message and an outright call for violence in the final letter.
However, former chief deputy district attorney in Denver Karen Steinhauser told The Denver Post that although state law draws a line between free speech and criminal threat, it isn't always clear when someone crosses that line due to context of the threat, how it was delivered, the tone of the message and other challenging factors.
The NAACP has also issued a statement about Sain's remarks as well as SofTec's response calling for severe consequences. Rep. Fields posted the NAACP statement on her Facebook page:
SofTec Solutions, the Englewood company which employs Franklin Sain, took an important first step today when it suspended Sain from his position as the company's Chief Operating Officer. But the NAACP Colorado Montana Wyoming State Conference believes SofTec's actions are insufficient.
We call on SofTec's management to terminate Franklin Sain immediately.
On today, the first anniversary of the tragic killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, we are reminded that racialized and sexualized attacks have been rained on men and women of color throughout history. The world lost Emmett Till to such an attack -- and decades later, young Trayvon who was killed theoretically because young men of color with their hoodies and Skittles are a menace to society in the eyes of some.
Franklin Sain's vile litany of threats and promises of violence in response to Rep. Rhonda Fields' introduction of gun control legislation, offers little difference. The District Attorney should file the strongest charges possible and Sain, who was released on an offensively low bond, must feel the full weight of his actions. Allowing him to sit at home on what could conceivably amount to a paid vacation would only add insult to the injury already experienced by Representative Fields -- and send the wrong message to others.
SofTec must end Sain's suspension.
For the sake of justice, it must completely relieve him of his duties now.
Fox31 was the first to report Monday that Franklin Sain, a 42-year-old Colorado Springs man, was arrested for making threats against Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), the sponsor of two of the four controversial gun measures that passed the state House last week.
“I am grateful for the prompt work of the Colorado State Patrol in bringing this suspect to justice," Fields said in a statement. "I also thank the Denver Police Department, which was instrumental in the investigation. I will not be deterred by threats.”
Monday afternoon, Fields tweeted:
Thank you for your aggressive police work,surveillance & protection of my families safety. There is no such thing as an idle threat #coleg
— Rhonda Fields (@reprhondafields) February 25, 2013
Sain is already out of jail on $30,000 bail.
Fields is the sponsor of House Bill 1224 which bans high-capacity gun magazines and limits capacity to 15 bullets, House Bill 1229 which requires universal background checks for all private gun sales in the state, including private sales.
In February, the Colorado House passed four bold, new gun bills, the two above as well as House Bill 1228 which requires a fee for gun buyers to pay in order to cover the cost of the background checks performed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and House Bill 1226 which bans guns on all public college campuses.
Earlier this week seven gun bills, including the four passed through the House, were passed through Senate committee. The state Senate is now hearing all seven controversial gun control bills again today in what is expected to be a long day of emotional testimony.
It remains unclear how many of the gun bills up for debate will become law, however Democrats do control both chambers of the state legislature and Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper has voiced support for some of the gun legislation up for consideration.