A New Yorker has been convicted of threatening to kill Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Greg Gutfeld.
A little more than a year after he was charged, 48-year-old Rickey Johnson was found guilty on Thursday of two counts of transmitting threatening interstate communications, each of which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Johnson, who also goes by the name Nigel Dawn Defarren, was acquitted of one count of threatening a United States official.
“Rather than express his political differences constructively, Rickey Johnson escalated his discord by instilling fear,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams wrote in a statement. “Johnson’s attempts to scare and stifle a U.S. Senator and two Fox News hosts were federal crimes for which he has now been convicted by a New York jury.”
The case was filed by Williams’s predecessor in the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, who said Johnson threatened “several cable news broadcasters and current and former U.S. Senators and members of the House.”
“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,” Strauss said when the case was filed last year.
On Jan. 30, 2021, Johnson sent direct private messages to Gutfeld on Instagram stating, “you will be killed,” prosecutors say.
He allegedly followed up that missive by posting videos on that year on Feb. 3, threatening to kill Sen. Manchin, Gutfeld, and Ingraham, according to his criminal complaint.
“You all kill police officers,” Johnson said in the video, according to the complaint.”Donald Trump supporters kill police officers. […] You don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m gonna kill you.”
Referring to both Fox News personalities by name, Johnson was quoted telling them: “I’m killing all of you all.”
“Make sure we’re clear, I am speaking to you on my Instagram live , I am going to kill you all,” he allegedly added.
A day later, Johnson said in a follow-up video of Manchin: “He’s dead, he is fucking dead,” adding he will be “executed.”
“I’m killin’ they ass, you think I’m jokin’, and you gonna know I fuckin’ did it,” Johnson was quoted saying.
Court papers also alluded to threats against other public officials identified only as “Representative-1,” “Governor-1,” and “Former Speaker-1,” who were elected in states others than New York.
Johnson’s federal defender Zawadi S. Baharanyi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Senior U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan will sentence Johnson on May 25, 2022.
Johnson’s marks one amid a series of cases involving threats against U.S. politicians, cropping up in courts in recent years. Felon Brian Maiorana pleaded guilty to illegal gun possession in a case accusing him of threatening to kill Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Another man, Brendan Hunt, received a 19-month prison sentence for threatening to kill top Democratic leadership. Earlier this year, Texas man Chad Stark was charged with threatening Georgia politicians whose names were shielded in court papers, but the Washington Post reported that the intended targets included Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and Gov. Brian Kemp (R), both vilified by former President Donald Trump for rejecting his attempt to subvert the election.
(Photo of Manchin by Drew Angerer/Getty Images; Screenshot of Gutfeld via Fox News; Photo of Ingraham by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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