An Annapolis man surrendered himself to authorities after a federal agent filed a complaint in U.S. District Court alleging he sent threatening messages to a member of Congress.
A U.S. Capitol Police investigator said in an affidavit that the unidentified legislator’s offices in Texas and D.C. received threatening messages over an event scheduling site in July that were traced back to the Maryland government network and a state-issued computer used by Justin Kuchta.
Kuchta worked as a network specialist for the Maryland Comptroller’s office in Annapolis, according to spokesperson Susan O’Brien. He started working there in 2012, most recently made a salary of approximately $75,000, and is no longer employed by the office, O’Brien said. She declined to state when or how he was separated from his employment there.
According to the affidavit, unsealed by a federal judge Wednesday morning after Kuchta surrendered to the U.S. Marshals Service, the 39-year-old sent messages on July 18 and 22 in response to an event that the congressperson would be attending.
“Thank you for the address!!! I’m coming to murder all of you,” one message said, followed by an expletive and later adding that the legislator, who he called the “Zodiak Killer,” would “be the first on the gallows.” He added that he possessed a “fresh militia and weapons.”
The complaint does not say which member of Congress was threatened but says they have a district office in Texas. A Department of Justice spokesperson said the department does not name victims publicly. A Capitol Police spokesperson said the department does not discuss threat investigations or security measures for members of Congress.
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The messages could be referencing an internet meme that satirically claims Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the unidentified Zodiac Killer who authorities believe killed several in Northern California in the 1960s and 1970s. A spokesperson from Cruz’s office declined to comment on the matter.
Federal authorities interviewed Kuchta at his workplace in Annapolis in August, according to the affidavit, which says he initially denied sending the messages but later confirmed he sent one on July 18 from his work computer while working from home.
Kuchta is charged with interstate communication containing a threat to injure, and faces a potential maximum sentence of five years in federal prison if he is convicted.
Kuchta was released following a hearing Wednesday afternoon before Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Beth P. Gesner in the U.S. District courthouse in Baltimore. He is being represented by Glen Burnie attorney David W. Fischer.
“You have the right to your own opinions, but not the right to threaten a federal official’s life,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Erik L. Barron said in a statement on Wednesday.
Kuchta’s charges join a wave of federal cases in Maryland involving threats to public officials.
Last month, Scott Eli Harris, 52, of Texas, was sentenced in Baltimore’s federal courthouse to six months in prison after pleading guilty to threatening former Baltimore health commissioner Leana Wen. Earlier in the month in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Thomas Patrick Connally Jr., of West Virginia, was sentenced to three years in federal prison for threatening Dr. Anthony Fauci and another federal health official.