Update: Man charged with threat to shoot McSally: 'Venting with a buzz'
'We know - maybe better than any other congressional district in the country - what happens when threats become acts of violence' - Karamargin
A Tucson man was charged in federal court with threatening to "assault and murder a United States official" after a series of phone calls to the office of U.S. Rep. Martha McSally. Steve Martan, 58, called McSally's office three times and made threats, court documents allege, including "Can't wait to fucking pull the trigger bitch."
Martan acknowledged the incidents Tuesday morning in an interview with TucsonSentinel.com, saying he "just want(s) to say sorry to Martha and the great people of Southern Arizona." The accused man said he was "venting" while under the influence.
Martan was arrested after FBI agents tracked the calls to a cell phone that he was carrying, a complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court said.
According to the FBI, Martan made one call to the office of the Republican congresswoman on May 2, and two on May 10, leaving "threatening statements" in voicemail messages.
"Our community should be deeply disturbed by these threats," said C.J. Karamargin, McSally's district director. "Threatening to shoot a member of Congress between the eyes and telling them their 'days are numbered' is sickening."
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."
Martan, who works as a campus monitor at Miles Exploratory Learning Center in Tucson Unified School District, was released on his own recognizance after a court hearing Friday. He was placed on home assignment by the district while the case is reviewed. The court ordered Martan to wear an electronic monitoring device, and restricted him to his home except for work, religious services, and mandatory mental health treatment by Pretrial Services. Judge Eric Markovich also ordered Martan to not possess any firearm, and ordered him to not drink alcohol or take any drugs.
In a brief online interview Tuesday morning, 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."
Top McSally staffer worked for Giffords on Jan. 8
"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.
"It's fortunate the FBI acted as swiftly as they did," said Karamargin in a phone interview. "They responded immediately, they kept us informed, and they've made us feel safer because of their quick action."
McSally's political opponents quickly denounced the threats.
"We do not condone violence or the threat of violence under any circumstances," said Kristen Randall of liberal activist group Indivisible Southern Arizona.
"Our mission .... is to hold our local members of Congress, including Rep. Martha McSally, accountable for her votes," Randall said in an emailed statement.
Local court records show 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 is 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 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.
Tuesday morning, Giffords released a statement condemning the threats.
"No matter where you live or what job you have, you have a right to feel safe in your community, at your workplace, and in your home. The threats of violence made against Congresswoman McSally are reprehensible and deeply disturbing. Civil discourse and civic engagement are hallmarks of our democracy, but threats and intimidation should never be tolerated," said the Democrat, who co-founded the gun violence prevention group Americans for Responsible Solutions after she stepped down from Congress.
"The shooting of Congresswoman Giffords was followed by an important national discussion about the need for greater civility and respectfulness in our public debates," Karamargin said. "The threats made against Congresswoman McSally are a searing reminder of just how important that discussion continues to be."
"We can disagree about issues and policies and should have a robust debate about the direction of our country, but threats like this cross a line," he said.
"People are engaged and passionate and that's exactly as it should be," he said. "People don't ever hesitate to express their views; some agree, some disagree — rarely do we encounter threats. When we do, we should always take them very seriously."
Another liberal group echoed the statement from Indivisible word-for-word.
"We believe that education and meaningful communication are the best and most effective tools to ensure representation in a democracy," said Indivisible's Randall and Marion Chubon from McSally Take A Stand in separate news releases.