Our country is divided; with our politics reaching a level of intense polarization which most likely hasn’t been seen since the American Civil War.
One day after the release of the Mueller report, that’s primary focus was to deliberate on Russia’s seemingly successful interference of the 2016 presidential election; and if any American persons aided and abetted in the process, a South Florida man was arrested for leaving threatening voicemails on multiple Congresspersons’ voicemails.
This article is not political, but will point out how the apparent impenetrable divide in our country has caused certain people to become overly-passionate when it comes to their personal opinions about their political leanings. So much so, they arrive at a point where they believe they need to take action personal action.
Last week, John Kless of Tamarac, Florida was arrested after leaving several threatening recordings via voicemail on multiple members of Congress’s telephones. In this case, the individuals were members of the Democratic Party. This action taken by Kless can virtually be categorized under the legal area of an assault, a serious crime, not protected under the First Amendment.
The threatening and highly offensive messages were sent to Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Eric Swalwell, and Senator Corey Booker. Two of these three members of both houses of Congress have currently announced their bids for President of the United States in the upcoming 2020 General Election.
The content of these messages are so repulsive and disturbing that I’ve chosen to leave them out of the body of this article instead of permitting readers of this blog to view them within this post. Instead, I’m leaving a link here where the content can be read in its entirety on a local South Florida online publication.
According to U.S. Capitol police, troublesome, profane phone calls were previously made by the same person to Nancy Pelosi; the current Speaker of the House of Representatives a few months ago.
These calls related to a Democratic Congress taking his guns away, his views on abortion, illegal immigration and his distaste for those of the Muslim faith serving in Congress.
A local reporter went to Kless’ apartment and tried to interview a woman who was believed to be his wife. She angrily stated that the “home had been raided by authorities and she had had enough.” A short time after she made the comment to the reporter, she drove away with a teenage boy, in tandem giving the reporter’s photographer the middle finger.
After making his initial appearance in federal court, Kless was released on a bond of $25,000, confined by a GPS monitor and warned to keep his distance from any guns as well as those that he threatened. Additionally, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, some weapons that were owned by Kless had been confiscated although she declined to go into further specifics.
Kless has been charged with making interstate threats. The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Many law enforcement organizations are aware of this growing concern and remain vigilante as the political atmosphere seems to be bubbling up to a boiling point.
This problem doesn’t only apply to members of the Democratic Party of Congress. It was just less than two years ago that Republican member of Congress and House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, was shot during a practice session for a Congressional Baseball Game which is played annually for charity. The game was scheduled to be played the following day.
The perpetrator of the shooting was a man named James T. Hodgkinson. According to two of the participants, Ron DeSantis (now Governor of Florida) and Jeff Duncan (a Congressman from South Carolina) before the shooting took place they were approached by a man who asked them whether it was Democrats or Republicans practicing for the upcoming game. Not realizing the impending danger, they told the stranger that the players were all GOP. Hodgkinson was shot and killed during the exchange of fire with police.
Although Scalise was the most severely injured, four other individuals suffered gunshot wounds during a close to ten minute melee.
Matt Mika, a lobbyist for a noted food company; Zack Barth, a congressional aide; and David Bailey and Crystal Griner, both U.S. Capitol Police officers were injured in the shooting spree.
Scalise was shot in the hip and was hurriedly air lifted by a U.S. Park Police helicopter to MedStar Washington Hospital Center where he immediately underwent surgery. The bullet that struck him entered in the area of his hip. It bounced across his pelvis; fracturing bones, damaging internal organs, and caused severe bleeding.
His initial condition was listed as critical. Multiple blood transfusions were performed as several surgeries were administered to stop the bleeding and repair the massive internal damage. His condition was upgraded to serious on June 17 and to fair on June 21. He was released from the hospital for a short period of time although he was readmitted to the intensive care unit on July 5 due to a growing concern of infection. He has now been released, hopefully for good, and is again working at his position in Congress.
The only other person who underwent surgery for his injuries was the lobbyist Matt Mika. He was shot multiple times in his arm and chest. His sternum, ribs and lungs were also injured in the shooting. He was taken to George Washington University Hospital where he also underwent immediate surgery. He was primarily diagnosed to be in critical condition following the surgery. The next day his condition was upgraded to serious and on June 23, he was released from the facility.
To add insult to injury and demonstrate the persistence of this problem nationwide, last August a New York man was arrested for leaving threatening voicemails on Scalisi’s phone.
Carlos Bayon of Grand Island, NY north of Buffalo left the following message for Scalise as well as the same for Cathy McMorris Rodgers a Republican Congresswomen from Washington State. The message was left in a combination of English and Spanish.
I’m publishing it as it’s not laced with profanity like the others, although the message is profane:
“Hey listen, this message is for you and the people that sent you there. You are taking ours, we are taking yours. Anytime, anywhere. We know where they are. We are not going to feed them sandwiches, we are going to feed them lead. Make no mistake you will pay. Ojo por ojo, diente por diente (Spanish for “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth). That is our law and we are the majority. Have a good day.”
Bayon was charged with interstate communication of a threat, with an additional charge of threatening two federal officials tacked on after. When Bayon’s residence was searched, federal agents’ uncovered 50 rounds of shotgun shells, approximately 150 rounds of 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition, and receipts for the purchase of a high-powered SKS rifle which is an assault rifle, as well as a .38 caliber revolver.
He’s pleaded not guilty to leaving menacing messages on their voice mail recorders and is currently facing four federal charges to be resolved in U.S. District Court in Buffalo, N.Y.
Currently, the Kless case continues for the above declarations of hate and violence including his disdain for Rep. Ilhan Omar in light of her comments about the 9/11 terror attacks.
In the Omar case he left the message: “I’d like to take that b**** and throw her right off the Empire State Building”.
There is no right and left in this blog post, only right and wrong.
Michael B. Cohen is a Fort Lauderdale based Criminal Defense Attorney specializing in the defense of Federal cases.
You can follow his twitter feed to read similar varying blog posts. His website serving South Florida can be found at https://www.southflalaw.com and his site dedicated to federal defense in the New York City area can be accessed at: http://www.nyfederalattorney.com