“There has been massive fraud in this country,” the message continued. “And if you don’t support it, we’re going to drag you out and we’re going to hang you by your neck to die. Good luck.”
Winegar, 34, of Amherst, N.H., pleaded guilty in August to six counts of threatening members of Congress and one count of transmitting interstate threatening communications. On Wednesday, he was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison.
“This sentence should send a message … that those who threaten to commit acts of violence against duly-elected legislators will be held accountable,” acting U.S. Attorney John Farley said in a statement.
Winegar’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Thursday.
Investigators did not name the lawmakers who received the threatening messages. Democrats and Republicans alike have reported receiving death threats in recent months. Those reporting threats include Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) who, during a news conference Tuesday, played a voice mail from a man telling her she would “not live much longer.” Omar received the message after Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) on Monday accused her of “anti-American” and “antisemitic” rhetoric.
Threats against politicians “to prevent them from carrying out their constitutional duties is a federal crime, not protected speech,” Joseph Bonavolonta, the FBI Boston Division’s special agent in charge, said after Winegar’s sentencing.
Three weeks earlier, federal investigators said Winegar called six lawmakers — three in the House and three in the Senate — and left “graphic threats.” He repeatedly said the politicians should back Trump, according to federal transcripts of the messages, while threatening them and their staffs.
“I might have to come and hang you personally, like until you die, and all of your aides, including you, who are listening to this right now,” one of the message transcripts read.
Members of the U.S. Capitol Police tried to interview Winegar on Dec. 20, four days after lawmakers received the messages, but Justice Department officials said he refused to speak with the officers.
The next day — before investigators could return with search and arrest warrants — Winegar boarded a flight to Brazil, leaving his family at home, according to a Justice Department news release. He was arrested after he returned to the United States on Jan. 11.
After his arrest, investigators said they learned of an email threat he sent to a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives two days before he called the members of Congress. In that email, Winegar “threatened to pull the representative from his bed and hang him,” the Justice Department release said.
Farley, the acting U.S. attorney, said in his statement that while political expression is protected speech, threats to commit violence are serious federal crimes.
“By threatening to kill members of Congress and a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, this defendant sought to intimidate public officials,” he said. “As this prosecution demonstrates, such conduct is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”