A California man was sentenced to six months of home confinement on Thursday for threats he made against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
Eugene Huelsman, 59, threatened to kill Gaetz in a voicemail left at the representative's congressional district office in Pensacola, Florida, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). He pleaded guilty to a count of transmission of a threat in interstate commerce.
"The free exercise of speech is central to our democracy," U.S. Attorney Jason R. Coody said. "However, the communication of threats of physical violence, in this case by an individual who had previously made and been investigated for similar threats of violence, is clearly unlawful."
Huelsman is also required to pay a $10,000 fine and will be placed on probation for five years after his home confinement.
The voicemail he left on Jan. 9, 2021, said he would "put a bullet in" Gaetz and his family he hoped the congressman would "die in a shallow grave," according to the DOJ.
Gaetz's office contacted U.S. Capitol Police after receiving the threatening voicemail, leading to an investigation of Huelsman.
Huelsman was previously investigated by the U.S. Secret Service for threats against a family member of a former president over social media.
"Words matter," Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division Sherri E. Onks said. "And this sentencing should serve as a warning. Everyone has the right to express their opinion, but when you harass, intimidate, and threaten violence against others, it's a federal crime that will not be tolerated."
Coody added: "Today's sentence acknowledges the defendant's repeated threats of violence and should serve as a significant deterrent to those who would threaten violence against others rather than engage in lawful debate."
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