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A rural Alaskan man who threatened to assassinate the two US senators from Alaska in a series of profane messages left at their congressional offices was sentenced to 32 months in prison on Friday.
Jay Allen Johnson was also fined $5,000, sentenced to three years of probation after his prison sentence, and is barred by a protective order from contacting US Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, their family and staff members for three years.
“There is no excuse for this conduct, threatening our elected officials, an act that attacks our very system of governance,” U.S. Attorney John E. Kuhn Jr. for the District of Alaska said in a statement. “The erosion of civility in our political discourse will never justify threats or acts of violence. Johnson’s actions must be punished and the Justice Department will always work to ensure our elected officials can serve without fear of harm. .”
Johnson, who said he was too old and ill to carry out his threats, partly blamed his behavior on a mix of painkillers and alcohol as well as isolation during the pandemic that has plagued the five months of 2021 when he left 17 threatening voicemails. .
Johnson, 65, of Delta Junction, pleaded guilty in January to two counts of threatening to kill a US official in January. Sentencing was handed down in the U.S. District Court in Fairbanks.
The government called for a 37-month prison sentence, followed by three years of supervised release with the protective order.
Johnson asked for a 30-month sentence or supervised release.
“The defendant’s conduct is simply unacceptable in a democracy,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Tansey wrote in the government’s sentencing memo filed ahead of the sentencing hearing. “As political violence and domestic extremism increase, the violent intimidation of public officials must carry serious criminal consequences.”
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In a message left at Murkowski’s office, Johnson asked, “.50 caliber shells…ever seen what that does to a human head? Yeah, well….”
In another message to Murkowski, he said, “I will discover all your properties, and I will burn everything you hope to have, and I will burn everything you hope to possess.”
Johnson also blamed her for undocumented workers entering the country.
“Your life is worth $5,000, that’s all it’s worth,” he said in a message to Murkowski’s office. “And while you let those terrorists and assassins in, guess what, I’m going to use them. … I’m going to use them to come and assassinate your f———a—.”
In a message left for Sullivan, Johnson said he was tired of politicians destroying the country. He claimed he would pull out his .50 caliber and start a GoFundMe page for shells. “And I come with a vengeance, mother——-,” he said.
“Unfortunately, political violence on all sides has become a clear and present danger to public safety and the functioning of our democracy,” the government memo said. “The defendant’s conduct showed his rejection of this democracy and his willingness to resort to repeated violent threats when duly elected representatives take actions with which he does not agree.”
Johnson, who has six convictions for driving under the influence, is not allowed to own firearms because he is a felon. However, law enforcement seized seven unsecured firearms from his home while executing a search warrant.
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The defense said the weapons belonged to Johnson’s wife, Catherine Pousson-Johnson. In October, as she pleaded for her husband to be released from prison while the court case continued, she was asked if she knew if her husband was threatening the two senators.
“Who does not have?” she replied.
At the same hearing, she said, “My husband is an old man and he gets very angry listening to politics on the news.”
In the defense memo on the sentencing, attorney Jason Weiner described Johnson as being in poor health, suffering from osteoarthritis and other ailments. He has had a series of surgeries over the years, including twice on his knees, back and shoulders. He was prescribed painkillers.
He was also diagnosed with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, the latter due to a turbulent childhood. Due to his health issues, he retired at age 55, when his drinking began, the memo states.
He takes full responsibility for his conduct and realizes that while he never intended to carry out the verbal threats, the senators did not know about it, the memo states.
“Between prescribed narcotics, pain and self-medication, Mr. Johnson was not himself,” the memo read.
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‘If anything, Mr. Johnson could use supervision rather than continued incarceration,’ the defense memo says when asking the judge to consider three years of supervised release as an option instead of one. additional incarceration.