“Not sure what’s more disturbing; the fact that someone tweeted this or that 4 accounts liked it,” Curbelo tweeted that same day, adding an emoji of a face wearing a mouth cover and closing his eyes.
The next day, FBI and local police arrested 19-year-old Pierre Alejandro Verges-Castro of Homestead, Fla., for making the death threat on his Twitter account, the Miami Herald reported.
Through statements, Curbelo’s office thanked the police and said the congressman would be moving ahead with his schedule as planned.
That might have been the end of the story.
On Thursday, more than a week after the arrest, Curbelo took the unusual step of bringing the issue up again at a news conference — held jointly with the teenager who had threatened to kill him.
Curbelo announced he did not want to press charges and said that Verges-Castro had “offered his sincere apology” the day before.
“Today I want everyone to know that I forgave him,” Curbelo told reporters. “As for Pierre, I wish him the best. He made a mistake and his life shouldn’t be ruined because of it.”
Throughout the event, Verges-Castro stood silently next to the congressman. Curbelo explained that the state attorney still had an open case against the teenager — it will ultimately be the state attorney’s decision whether to press charges — and that Verges-Castro would not be speaking because of that.
Verges-Castro’s Twitter account appears to have since been deactivated.
In an appearance on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” Friday, Curbelo explained why he had forgiven the teen.
He was concerned, he said, because of the increasingly toxic and divisive political environment. The week he received the death threat on Twitter, authorities intercepted more than a dozen potential explosive devices sent to prominent Democrats and other critics of President Trump. (A Florida man would be arrested on suspicion of mailing the bombs two days later.)
“Unfortunately, these days, all these threats — you get them, we get them — you got to take them all seriously because you just don’t know,” Curbelo told host Chris Cuomo. “There are some people out there who, either because they’re mentally unstable or because they’re just evil, do want to kill people, and we’ve seen that in a very dramatic way recently.”
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After police made an arrest in his death threat, though, Curbelo said he called authorities and asked if the teenager was truly dangerous or “just some kid who said something I’m sure he really regrets right now.” Police told him it was the latter.
So Curbelo requested a meeting with Verges-Castro.
“I think healing is the most important thing that can happen in this country,” Curbelo told Cuomo. “First I wanted to understand why it is someone would say something like this or express themselves with so much hate. And secondly, I’d really like to try to turn this into something positive. And I sat down with Pierre."
What Curbelo said he learned was that “Pierre” was a “really, really good kid” who played the piano and guitar, and was also going to school to earn an associate degree. After talking, the two agreed to do the joint news conference to show that forgiveness is possible.
“He explained to me that he had some issues in his personal life that he thinks pushed him to do something like this, and he also talked about the toxicity of our politics and how nasty and negative everything is,” Curbelo told Cuomo. “I hope [later] that this young man can also share his story and we can all learn from it, and it can help put us down a better path — because I’m really worried about things in our country these days.”
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