Politics

Omaha Man Pleads Guilty to Plotting to Kill Joni Ernst

Suspect believed Iowa Republican was connected to ISIS

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, was the target of a potential plot on her life last July. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

An Omaha man pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to threatening the life of Sen. Joni Ernst, who he believed was in cahoots with Islamic State terrorists.

Robert W. Simet, 64, told employees at a motorcycle shop near the Nebraska-Iowa border last July that he might kill the Iowa Republican at a speech she was scheduled to deliver there, according to court documents obtained by The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Ernst’s office could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

An FBI special agent spoke with the shop employees, who said Simet knew Ernst was scheduled to visit, the documents show, and Simet made “alarming” statements that caused employees to fear for the senator’s safety.

Simet said he didn’t know if he should attend the event because he would be arrested, one employee told the special agent. If he did go, he would take “everybody with him,” Simet allegedly said.

Ernst is not the only federal lawmaker Simet suspected of being wrapped up in conspiracy.

He also discussed potential links between President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and ISIS, a witness told authorities, according to an affidavit.

“Everyone in the government needs to be killed off,” Simet told the witness.

When the special agent tracked down Simet’s residence in Omaha, he found aluminum foil covering many of the windows and a security camera scanning the outside.

Simet registered a firearm in 2007, according to the affidavit. In 1975, he was convicted of felony burglary in Nebraska, but he received a full pardon in 2000, which restored his gun rights. He also was convicted of misdemeanor assault and battery  in 2013.

It is unclear how long of a prison sentence Simet will serve for the threats on Ernst.

He will be sentenced in Iowa on May 23.

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