DENVER (CBS4) – A man accused of threatening a Colorado lawmaker who is pushing for stricter gun control measures told a judge he wants the charges against him dismissed.
Franklin Sain, 42, was advised of the charges against him on Friday in a Denver County Courtroom.
Sain is a former technology executive at SofTec Solutions in Englewood and has been fired from his job.
Prosecutors say Sain sent Rep. Rhonda Fields emails and voicemails intended to intimidate or harass her. Sain, who is white, is charged with attempting to influence a public official and harassment based on ethnicity. Fields, who represents Aurora, is black.
Police said Sain has acknowledged sending Fields emails and messages laced with profanity and racial slurs. In one message, Sain allegedly told Fields he hoped someone would “Giffords” her, an apparent reference to the 2011 shooting and wounding of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, of Arizona. A police affidavit said Sain apologized for his comments.
Sain’s attorney, Siddhartha Rathod, said Friday that the messages were not criminal.
“All of Mr. Sain’s emails and voicemails, while horrific and vile were not threatening,” said Rathod.
Rathod argues that the First Amendment gives Sain the right to voice his opinion, and that the law does not shield public officials from offensive comments.
One anonymous letter that raised particular alarm read: “There Will Be Blood!” and listed Fields and her daughter. The letter hasn’t been conclusively linked to Sain and he denies writing it.
“The prosecution has probable cause based on the emails and the voicemail alone to go forward with this case,” CBS4 Legal Analyst Karen Steinhauser said. “I think the prosecution is going to have a harder time of showing his intent was to get her to change her vote.”
Colorado is not the only state where lawmakers are fielding angry – and sometimes threatening – messages as a result of heated debates over gun restrictions. Earlier this week, an Oregon state senator said she cancelled a town hall meeting about gun control because she had received hostile and threatening emails. A California man suspected of threatening a state senator over a bill limiting the reloading of assault weapons was arrested. And a Minnesota lawmaker sponsoring an assault weapons ban said she has been receiving threatening messages.
If found guilty, Sain could face as much as six years in prison.