Federal official denies threatening to kill boss or ‘shoot him in the kneecap’

May 14

A high-ranking federal official who faces a felony charge for allegedly threatening to shoot the former head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency appeared in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday and, through his lawyer, denied the allegations lodged against him.

Richard Hornsby, 58, allegedly threatened former FHFA acting director Edward J. DeMarco after receiving a review last month for his performance as the agency’s chief operating officer, according to a court document.

Hornsby did not confront DeMarco directly, but allegedly made several alarming comments to a source who was not identified in court records. In one instance, the records say, Hornsby allegedly said that he would “blow [DeMarco’s] brains out” or maybe “shoot him in the kneecap” and then kill himself.

Marlon Griffith, Hornsby’s lawyer, told reporters that Hornsby is a lifelong public servant who will be found innocent. “We intend to vigorously defend his case, his name and his character,” Griffith said.

Hornsby, who pleaded not guilty at a previous hearing, sat in the back of the courtroom waiting for his turn before Judge Karen Howze. His appearance lasted less than five minutes, long enough to identify his attorney and schedule a preliminary hearing for June 3, when prosecutors are to present the evidence in their case.

An FHFA spokeswoman declined to comment on the case. Hornsby also declined to speak.

Hornsby worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco more than two decades before joining the FHFA in late 2011. The agency was created three years earlier to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after the government took control of them at the height of the financial crisis. When the alleged incidents took place, DeMarco no longer headed the agency, but was there in a senior role helping the new director.

DeMarco, who left the agency in late April, could not be reached for comment.

The court record on what transpired between the two men is brief, and it’s built around the comments of the unnamed source. The source said Hornsby was agitated when he spoke April 3 about his performance rating. The record did not describe the nature of the review.

The source allegedly had another conversation with Hornsby on April 24, in which Hornsby said that DeMarco was not in the office that day but that if he had been, Hornsby would have ripped him “limb by limb from his office,” the court document said.

Four days later, FHFA officials heard of the threats and reported them to the agency’s office of inspector general, which declined to comment Wednesday. DeMarco was “escorted to a secure location,” the court filing said. Hornsby, who was charged with threatening to injure and kidnap a person, was led out of the building and put on administrative leave.

On April 29, the unnamed source provided a three-page sworn statement detailing the encounters that was not made public, the court record said. The source said Hornsby takes anti-
depressant medication to treat an ongoing condition “and can be very agitated when stressed, to the effect of Hornsby saying he would jump out of windows and blow his (Hornsby’s) brains out on a dozen separate occasions,” according to the court document.

The court has ordered a mental health assessment of Hornsby and ordered him to stay away from DeMarco. Hornsby, released after his arrest, must regularly report to the court.

On Wednesday, after walking too close to the judge’s bench, Horsby was directed by a U.S. marshal to his correct spot. He dutifully crossed his arms behind his back while his lawyer spoke with the judge. Papers were signed, and Hornsby and Griffith promptly left, followed by reporters.

Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.

Dina ElBoghdady covers housing policy for The Washington Post.
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