Congress

Arkansas man arrested for death threats against Sen. Tom Cotton, Rep. Rick Crawford

James Powell, 43, was charged with first-degree terroristic threatening

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was one of two Republican Arkansas lawmakers threatened by a man who was arrested earlier this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

An Arkansas man was arrested earlier this week for threatening to kill Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. Rick Crawford, multiple local news outlets reported.

James Powell, 43, was charged with first-degree terroristic threatening, a felony that carries a maximum six-year prison sentence and $10,000 fine.

Powell was only charged for his specific threats against Cotton and Crawford, both Republicans. He also threatened to target the “media,” but he was not charged on those grounds since his threat was not against anyone specifically, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.

On Sept. 17, Powell began sending a series of 15 text messages spread out over multiple days to Crawford’s office through an online contact form outlining his “political grievances,” according to an affidavit reviewed by the Democrat Gazette.

The texts were received on Sept. 23.

Authorities matched the phone number that sent the texts with one in police records allegedly belonging to Powell. The U.S. Capitol Police reported the texts as threats to the FBI, which then mobilized local law enforcement to make the arrest.

Riddled with spelling errors and often abstruse phrases, Powell’s texts appear to threaten Crawford and the media with the wrath of white supremacists and some sort of militia.

“I am now contacting Malitia and white Supremacist. I don’t see why all death should be on your terms,” Powell wrote, per the affidavit. “If it takes death to stop death, it will still be all your fault in the end.”

Powell threatened to target the media first because they have “less security” and have “all the blame.”

He later backtracked from that plan, saying instead that he would start at Crawford’s house because “you need to feel our pain.”

Powell warned that his text messages should be taken seriously.

“I’m not making idle threats. I want you to come after me,” he wrote.

In subsequent texts, Powell apologized for making the threats.

“Infact I’m sorry,” he wrote of his previous threats, per court documents, the Democrat Gazette reported. “That’s not who I am.”

But he persisted in his combative opposition to government officials.

“I will keep my oath to defend this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” he wrote. “There is no greater enemy than a government that wont protect it’s own people. ... No greater enemy than a government that wont listen to the people. The fight must go on.”

Crawford’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The nature of Powell’s threats against Cotton have not yet been reported, and the senator’s office declined to elaborate on the threats.

“Our office doesn’t typically comment on ongoing investigations such as these,” a spokeswoman for the Crawford’s office said in an email, referring any questions to the USCP.

The USCP has seen an uptick in death threat cases against members in recent years, according to Chief Steven A. Sund.

Authorities handled nearly 5,000 cases in fiscal year 2018 alone.

Chris Marquette contributed to this report.

Correction 1:55 p.m.: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote from a spokeswoman for Rep. Rick Crawford to a spokeswoman for Sen. Tom Cotton.

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