Long Island resident Ronald DeRisi, 74, was arrested Friday and charged with threatening to assault and murder two U.S. senators over their support for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Starting in late September, the man allegedly left more than 10 threatening voicemails at the offices of two unidentified senators about Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation, according to a Department of Justice release. The “expletive-laced” messages initially warned the lawmakers not to support the nomination, and later admonished at least one of them for doing so.
Late last month, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh had tried to rape her in high school. Two other women also came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. After weeks of hearings, protests and Senate fights, Kavanaugh was confirmed on Oct. 6. in a 50-48 vote, with every Republican but one (Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski) supporting him, and every Democrat but one (West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin) opposing him.
In one voicemail, the suspect allegedly spoke of Kavanaugh and described a “present” he had for one senator: “a 9 mm,” apparently referring to a gun. In a voicemail for the other senator, he said “you better pray this guy don’t get in,” and followed up with another message saying, “I’m gonna get you.”
Law enforcement authorities identified the suspect through phone records and voice samples, according to the Justice Department release. He was scheduled to appear in court later on Friday.
“Representative democracy cannot work if elected officials are threatened with death for simply doing their job,” New York District Attorney Richard Donoghue said in the release. “The First Amendment ― the pinnacle of American achievement ― protects debate, disagreement and dissent, not death threats.”
In June, a Maryland teen was indicted on charges of threatening to murder Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on the day of the nationwide gun control rally March for Our Lives.