Most threats to Wis. lawmakers dismissed by police

AP News
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Posted: May 12, 2011 9:52 PM
Most threats to Wis. lawmakers dismissed by police

Law enforcement officials in Wisconsin reviewed 90 complaints of threats or harassment amid a contentious debate on an anti-union bill, most of them directed at Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers from both parties, and about a dozen of the threats remain under criminal investigation, according to records released Thursday.

The records released by the Wisconsin Department of Justice show the 90 complaints were forwarded to law enforcement from Feb. 16 to March 25.

Beyond those singled out as possible criminal behavior, the others included 30 reported threats or harassing comments against Democrats and 27 against Walker and other Republicans. The remaining complaints were either vague threats against other officials and protesters or were unrelated to the protests.

Most of the complaints were closed after it was determined the individuals posed no significant threat.

Many of the complaints were about emails, phone calls, social media posts and a few letters sent threatening lawmakers with bodily harm. A few targeted Democratic legislators, referring to them as "Marxists" and making racist remarks about their ties to President Barack Obama.

Others either implied that Walker and other Republicans should be killed or die in some way. An email sent to Rep. Robin Vos of Rochester implied someone might attempt to shoot the lawmaker in a way similar to "that poor congresswoman in Arizona. No (sic) me, but some nut in your area."

The majority of those complaints did not merit a formal investigation. Federal officials investigated a few of the complaints and arrested a person in connection with letters sent to U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine that said Walker should be killed and told other governors to resign to avoid any harm.

The Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation opened cases into six specific incidents, threatening Democratic senators and Walker. One incident involved a threat from a Virginia man to "take a gun" to the heads of Sens. Julie Lassa of Stevens Point and Lena Taylor of Milwaukee.

Five investigations were closed after DCI determined the individuals posed no threat to the lawmakers and had not committed any crimes. The sixth was closed after district attorneys in Dane County and the area where the writer lived "declined to review for prosecution."

Several threats were also reported of possible violence against both pro-Walker protesters and anti-Walker protesters. One person sent multiple threats to the Madison Board of Education, including an email saying, "I will be making an appearance at the Capitol rotunda tonight at midnight. Pray for the protesters. They will need it." Police said that the individual never appeared.

Only one person has been charged with a crime as a result of the complaints. Katherine Windels, 26 of Cross Plains, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of making threats over a computer and two felony counts of bomb scares after sending several GOP senators emails threatening to shoot them or place bombs around their houses.

A not guilty plea was entered for the two misdemeanors on Windels' behalf at her initial appearance. She is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.

Another man was arrested for verbal threats to shoot Walker, but there is no record of him ever being charged with a crime, according to Wisconsin court records.