A former Pentagon cybersecurity contractor and Carroll County resident was sentenced to home confinement and two years of federal probation for phoning in a death threat to a Florida congresswoman last year.
Darryl Albert Varnum of Westminster told the court that he regretted the call and never intended to harm the elected official. His attorney said he had been drinking heavily to cope with physical and mental effects of Lyme’s disease, but has been sober ever since.
“I hope that my case sends a clear message to others that there are lines that cannot be crossed when it comes to communications with elected officials,” Varnum said at the hearing.
U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett told Varnum that his punishment was about sending a message about discourse in today’s political climate.
“It not only has ramifications for you, but it has ramifications for our culture,” Bennett said. “It only took 30 seconds to drastically change the course of your life.”
The Congressperson was not identified by name in court papers or at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, but details from court documents indicate that call was made to Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat.
Authorities said Varnum called the sponsor of the Vaccinate All Children Act, and in a transcript of the call, Varnum said he would travel to Miami to kill her. Wilson was the lead sponsor of the bill, and the only one of the sponsors who is from Miami.
“I’m gonna kill your ass if you do that bill,” Varnum said in the June 26 voice mail message. “I will [expletive] come down and I will [expletive] kill your ass.”
About 12 minutes later, he posted on Facebook about the bill and compared it to the Holocaust. “All our guns are next!” he wrote.
A SWAT team raided his home, and he was fired from his job as a cybersecurity expert and lost his security clearance.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen Gavin said that law enforcement officials tasked with looking into the threat did not know whether Varnum was going to act on it.
“Fortunately, no one was hurt,” she said.
Varnum’s attorney, assistant federal public defender Brendan Hurson, said the call was out of character for Varnum. While he said that vaccinations are an issue of importance to the Varnums, he said Varnum read a post containing inaccurate information about the bill and does not hold an “extremist ideology.”
“He is a man who is a very good man, who had a very real illness and was quite frankly too drunk to control himself on the day he made that call,” Hurson said.
Varnum spent three days in jail last year after being arrested, and completed in-patient alcohol treatment. He called the incident a “massive wake-up call,” and said he is trying to build a new career.
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“I know I never would have done something like this if I was in my right mind,” he said.