Federal authorities arrested a New York man Friday for allegedly threatening the lives of two U.S. senators for supporting Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, Ronald DeRisi, 74, of Smithtown, New York, allegedly left more than 10 voicemails for two senators to discourage them from voting to confirm Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, NBC News said.
A U.S. Attorney’s Office statement said that DeRisi made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary R. Brown in Central Islip, New York, on Friday afternoon.
DeRisi reportedly left one threatening message on September 27, saying “Actually, even if Kavanaugh doesn’t get in, he’s dead f****** meat,” authorities told NBC News.
In another message recorded on October 6, authorities accuse DeRisi of saying “tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock,” the network stated.
Kavanaugh survived a rocky confirmation process, where he was accused by several women of sexual misconduct. College professor Christine Blasey Ford testified against him in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee last month.
Ford accused Kavanaugh of trying to rape her at high school house party when they both were teenagers. Kavanaugh strongly denied that charge and sexually-related allegations made by two other women, winning Senate confirmation this month on a 50-48 vote.
Federal officers said that they traced the threatening calls to a pre-paid cellphone that was purchased with a debit card owned by DeRisi, according to NBC News.
“Representative democracy cannot work if elected officials are threatened with death for simply doing their job,” U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a statement. “The First Amendment – the pinnacle of American achievement – protects debate, disagreement and dissent, not death threats.”
“We and all those dedicated to the rule of law will not tolerate the use violence and threats of violence in attempts to prevail in political disputes,” he continued.
After DeRise was arrested by authorities, the U.S. Capitol police used a search warrant to seize the cellular phones they believe were used to leave the threatening voice messages to the senators.
“I greatly appreciate the hard work of our investigators for addressing these threats so quickly, and that of the U.S. Attorney’s staff for prosecuting this case,” Matthew R. Verderosa, chief of the U.S. Capitol Police said in the statement.
The case is being handed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Long Island, the Justice Department statement said. Assistant U. S. Attorney Justina L. Geraci will be in charge of the prosecution.
Authorities did not release the names of the senators who received the threats.