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Federal Prosecutions Over Political Threats On The Increase

Last week, Abigail Shry of Alvin, Tex., was charged with threatening to kill the federal judge overseeing one prosecution of former President Trump. A week earlier, Craig Robertson of Provo, Ut., was shot and killed by FBI agents who were attempting to arrest him on charges of making social media threats against President Biden and the Manhattan district attorney who charged Trump. Earlier, Adam Bies of Mercer, Pa., was charged with making threats online against federal officers. Bies was arrested after an armed stand-off with FBI agents at his home. The number of people being federally prosecuted for threats has skyrocketed in recent years, USA Today reports. Last year, federal officials charged more people over public threats – against elected officials, law enforcement and judicial officials, educators and health care workers – than in any of the previous 10 years, says the National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center at the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

This year the trend has continued. “We're on track to meet, if not surpass, the number of federal arrests when it comes to communicating threats against public officials this year,” says the Nebraska center's Seamus Hughes. “Trend lines are going up — violent rhetoric is on the rise, and is unfortunately becoming normalized, and that's concerning.” A year ago, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint warning about rising threats against law enforcement officials. The warning came after FBI agents searched Trump’s Florida club and residence, Mar-a-Lago, looking for the classified documents over which Trump has since been indicted. The University of Nebraska data is a snapshot of a broader trend, including only federal prosecutions. Many more threats are investigated each year by local law enforcement and even more are never reported, said Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “All sorts of agencies have reported increases in threats,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there using language to get people angry.”


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