Threats found in private messages and public videos
Military veteran Rickey Johnson, 48, was found guilty on Thursday in a Manhattan federal court of threatening a federal official and making interstate threats.
He was acquitted on one count of threatening a public official.
According to court documents, Johnson sent a private message to Fox News host Greg Gutfeld on 30 January, 2021, that read, “You will be killed.”
In public videos on social media, he also threatened Mr Manchin and Fox’s Laura Ingraham with death. In the clips, he claimed Joe Manchin was “dead” and would be “executed,” while he told Gutfeld he was “going to take [his] life.” In one video, he told Ingraham he would “kill” her with his “bare hands.”
“Rickey Johnson allegedly threatened to kill several cable news broadcasters and current and former US Senators and members of the House in rage-fueled posts on Instagram and in chilling private messages,” US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss said in a statement when Johnson was arrested. “Among the many great freedoms Americans enjoy is the right to engage in political discourse, and disagreements are natural and healthy; but when invective metastasizes into threats of harm or even death, law enforcement will act swiftly to bring the person responsible to justice.”
Johnson also directed threats to Fox’s Jesse Waters and Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
“Rather than express his political differences constructively, Rickey Johnson escalated his discord by instilling fear,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement on Friday after the conviction. He also praised the New York Police Department for their work on the case.
Law enforcement officials said there was no evidence of a specific plot to or weapons related to these threats, though the statements still were violations of law.
Johnson will be sentenced in May and could face up to 20 years in prison.