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An Oklahoma man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to harassing and threatening a US representative from his state.
Keith Eisenberger, 39, of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, pleaded guilty to cyberstalking and threatening to kidnap and assault Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., and threatening to kidnap and assault his wife, the Justice Department said.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate threats of online violence intended to intimidate elected officials or members of our community. Keith Eisenberger now understands there are legal repercussions to commit these criminal acts,” U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson said in a statement. press release on Wednesday.
Hern represents Oklahoma’s first congressional district.
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In a statement, FBI Special Agent in Charge in Oklahoma City, Edward J. Gray, said the First Amendment does not protect people who threaten to use violence.
“While the First Amendment gives us the right to express our own opinions, it does not protect those who cross the line from making violent criminal threats,” Gray said. “The FBI will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to ensure elected officials can safely perform their duties.”
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In the deal, Eisenberger admitted sending “worrying statements” between Nov. 27, 2018 and May 11, 2022, including a message saying he was going to kidnap Hern and his wife, the Justice Department said.
Eisenberger now faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison for the crime.
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The deal came during a years-long investigation of Eisenberger, who attended political events in his state to meet lawmakers. The uninvited admiration then quickly turned into harassment, the Justice Department said.
After Hern won the general election in 2018 and was sworn in in January 2019, Eisenberger traveled to Washington, DC to meet with lawmakers.
Once there, he asked Hern to resign. During the incident, Eisenberger reportedly told Capitol police that he had purchased a one-way ticket and would not leave until Hern left his post.
In 2020, Eisenberger took to social media to demand that Hern be “federally executed.” He also said Hern should face resignation, death or expulsion. In another post the same year, he threatened to assault the Republican lawmaker.
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The Justice Department also said Eisenberger continued his harassment in 2021, in a social media post where he threatened to kidnap Hern and his wife, Tammy Hern.
The FBI conducted the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Nassar is pursuing the case.