By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A Laramie man was sentenced this week to prison for threatening four state and national political figures earlier this year.
Christopher Kent Podlesnik, 52, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to four counts of transmitting threats in interstate commerce. The sentence also includes three years of supervised release, a fine of $10,000 and special assessments totaling $400.
A federal grand jury charged Podlesnik with leaving voicemail messages threatening various elected officials on Jan. 28, including U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and Wyoming Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne.
His messages included profanity-laced and threatening language constituting true threats. As defined by the Supreme Court, true threats are “statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.”
According to the indictment, Podlesnik left three voicemails for Lummis on different contact numbers, threatening to shoot her in the head.
“I will [expletive] kill you. I will,” he said in one voicemail.
He left two voicemails on phones connected to Barrasso, threatening him in regards to a recent Wyoming visit by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who was in the state to criticize U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s impeachment vote against former President Donald Trump.
“You let Gaetz step into the state of Wyoming, not only is he going to be dead…you’re going to be dead,” Podlesnik told Barrasso, according to the indictment.
In a voicemail to Bouchard, Podlesnik said, among other things, “You’re a [expletive] traitor, and you deserve to be shot” and saying that he would take Bouchard down.
Finally, the indictment said, Podlesnik left a voicemail with a contact number for Gaetz, saying he would put two bullets in the congressman’s head.
“As Americans, we cherish the freedoms secured by our Bill of Rights, including our freedom of speech,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray. “However, the criminal threats Christopher Podlesnik made with the intent to place multiple victims in fear of injury or death are not free speech protected by the Constitution. Rather, those threats cost him a hefty fine and 18 months in federal prison.”
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Szott.
“The FBI vigorously pursues all credible threats directed at our elected officials,” said Michael Schneider, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Denver Division. “I am extremely proud of our Wyoming agents who successfully investigated this case and worked within the justice system to hold Mr. Podlesnik accountable for his actions. I want to thank our law enforcement partners who also worked on this matter to include the U.S. Capitol Police, Wyoming Highway Patrol and the Laramie Police Department.”