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'Buzzed' threats against McSally earn Tucson man 15 mos. in prison

A series of threatening phone messages directed at U.S. Rep. Martha McSally last year led to a sentence of more than a year in federal prison for a Tucson man. Steve Martan was told by a federal judge Wednesday that he'll also spend three years on probation after completing his stay behind bars.

Martan was charged last year in federal court with threatening to "assault and murder a United States official" after a series of phone calls to McSally's office. The 58-year-old Tucson resident called the Republican congresswoman's office multiple times and made threats, court documents alleged, including "Can't wait to fucking pull the trigger bitch."

Martan pleaded guilty last September, and faced up to two years in prison under a plea deal.

He was sentenced Wednesday morning by U.S. District Court Judge Cindy Jorgenson.

In an exclusive interview with TucsonSentinel.com last year, Martan said he was "venting with a buzz" and acknowledged making the calls.

He said last May that he "just want(ed) to say sorry to Martha and the great people of Southern Arizona."

In a victim impact statement provided to the judge as part of the sentencing process, McSally said that even months after the threats, she was still "deeply disturbed by what he said and the immeasurable effect on our representative government. In a vulgar series of six messages over the course of nine days, Mr. Martan threatened to shoot me between the eyes, said that my days were numbered, that he can't wait to pull the trigger and blow my brains out, and that he and others just bought the ammunition, among other hateful statements. These are chilling words."

McSally said that during a meeting with Martan, held as part of his plea deal prior to sentencing, he "minimized his crimes and their impact."

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"He conveyed that he thought I always got threatening messages like his," the congresswoman wrote to the court. "He blamed his behavior on being drunk (remember he left 6 separate messages over 9 days so it wasn't a one-off), yet he had done essentially nothing to address his drinking problem or his inability to control his anger management. He didn't attend AA meetings or seek out any other assistance available to him. When asked how he was dealing with his anger issues, he said he doesn't watch TV anymore since the news was making him so angry."

Martan was arrested after FBI agents tracked the calls to a cell phone that he was carrying, a criminal complaint filed last year in U.S. District Court said.

According to the FBI, Martan made one call to McSally's office on May 2, 2017, and two on May 10, leaving "threatening statements" in voicemail messages. Court records show he made six calls to her office over a period of nine days that month.

In the first message, Martan said "Yeah this is for Martha McSally" and "If I could ring your fucking neck (sic). You need to get back from where you came from and leave Arizona," the complaint said.

In the second message, the accused man said "Yeah Martha, our sights are set on you, right between the eyes," "Be careful when you come back to Tucson cause we hate you here, okay," and "Can't wait to fucking pull the trigger bitch," according the to the court filing by the FBI.

In a third message, he said "Yeah Martha, your days are numbered."

In a brief online interview with TucsonSentinel.com after he was charged last year, Martan said he wanted to apologize and that he had been "venting anger with the help of a buzz."

He said he was "not enjoying my 15 minutes of fame."

McSally told the court that Martan's "threats take on added weight in a community such as ours. Tucson sadly knows what can happen when a member of Congress becomes a target. We know the harm and heartbreak that can result when someone's violent thoughts or words become violent acts. There is no question that the January 8, 2011, shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords influenced my reaction to Mr. Martan's threats. How could it not? That painful experience was a clear reminder to me and my staff that Mr. Martan's threats of violence had be taken seriously. Several of my district staff worked in Gifford's office alongside Gabe Zimmerman, who was the first congressional staffer killed in the line of duty in our nation's history. Mr. Martan's threats brought back painful memories and served as a stark reminder of the risks they take to serve constituents in our community on my behalf every day. Risks they should not have to take."

"Our community should be deeply disturbed by these threats," C..J. Karamargin, McSally's district director, said last year. "Threatening to shoot a member of Congress between the eyes and telling them their 'days are numbered' is sickening."

"Sadly, we know — maybe better than any other congressional district in the country — what happens when threats of violence become acts of violence," said Karamargin, who was the chief spokesman for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at the time of the Jan. 8, 2011, assassination attempt on the congresswoman.

Local court records showed only a series of traffic-related violations in Martan's recent court history. Online records indicate a DUI charge was filed against him two decades ago, but did not indicate the outcome of that case.

Martan was charged with a violation 18 USC 115: threatening to assault and murder a United States official with intent to impede, intimidate and interfere with her officials duties, and to retaliate against her on account of her performance of her duties, according to the complaint.

Martan was easily tracked down, according to the court filing. The caller ID on McSally's office voicemail system provided a phone number, and Verizon information indicated Martan was the subscriber to the number. After determining his address, FBI agents went to Martan's home, found him there, and found the cell phone associated with the number "on his person."

Martan "admitted that he had used this phone to call the office of Congresswoman McSally," FBI Special Agent Amy Ferron wrote in the complaint. Martan said he was "venting frustrations" about McSally's votes in support of President Donald Trump, the agent wrote.

Both of McSally's predecessors in representing Arizona's CD 2 in Congress were shot while pursuing their official duties. Giffords and her district director, Ron Barber, were shot in the Jan. 8, 2011, attack on a constituent meet-and-greet that killed six people and wounded 13. Giffords later resigned her seat, and Barber was elected to take her place.

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Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com