Jul 29, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Man who phoned in death threats to Gaetz sentenced to home detention

Rep. Matt Gaetz speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 26, 2022 in Orlando, Florida

Rep. Matt Gaetz at February's Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A California man was sentenced to six months' home confinement over death threats he made to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in a phone message three days after the U.S. Capitol riot.

The big picture: Eugene Huelsman, 59, of Thousand Oaks, pleaded guilty last April to one count of transmission of a threat in interstate commerce after "threatening to kill" Gaetz in a "profanity laced voicemail" message at the congressman's district office in Pensacola, Florida, per a Justice Department statement.

  • "This included threatening to 'put a bullet in' Congressman Gaetz and members of his family," the Department of Justice said of the Jan. 9, 2021, message.
  • "Huelsman also threatened that he was 'coming for' the Congressman, and that he hoped the Congressman would 'die in a shallow grave,'" the DOJ added.

What they're saying: Huelsman's defense attorney Curtis Fallgatter told Politico his client left the message after he heard Gaetz praise the Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

  • "He saw all the supporting comments from Gaetz saying those are good people. ... That’s what motivated the case," Fallgatter said.

For the record: Jason Coody, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, said in a statement on Thursday that the sentence should "serve as a significant deterrent to those who would threaten violence against others" instead of engaging in lawful debate.

  • "The free exercise of speech is central to our democracy," Coody said. "However, the communication of threats of physical violence ... is clearly unlawful."

What's next: "Huelsman's home confinement will be followed by five years' probation, and a $10,000 fine," per the DOJ statement.

Go deeper: Capitol Police data indicates threats to lawmakers have surged since 2017

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