A Detroit man was charged earlier this week with allegedly threatening to kill both Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state's attorney general, Dana Nessel. The New York Times recently reported that Robert S. Tesh was charged with making a false report of a threat of terrorism. Making such threats against elected officials is a felony.
Tesh relayed what law enforcement officials are calling "credible threats" to family members and friends using multiple social media messengers. The threats were reportedly sent in the middle of last month. Michigan State Police spokesman Mike Shaw said officials received a tip on Friday and Tesh was arrested later that day.
Shaw refused to say which social media platforms were used but did divulge that the charges could lead to a sentence of more than 20 years. Shaw added that the threats against Whitmer and Nessel were not directly related to Michigan's "stay at home" order put in place because of the coronavirus outbreak. Law enforcement officials declined to give specifics on why the threats were made. They added that the motive would be made clear in court proceedings.
"The alleged facts, in this case, lay out a very disturbing scenario. We understand that these times can be stressful and upsetting for many people," Kym L. Worthy, the prosecutor for Wayne County, said in an official statement.Worthy added that threats like the ones made by Tesh "cannot be tolerated" against public officials like Whitmer. The prosecutor said that threats made against elected officials who were carrying out their duly appointed duties were especially egregious.
When Shaw was asked what made Tesh's threats "credible," he did not elaborate beyond saying it wasn't appropriate to ever make threats against the governor of a state or any other elected official.
When the charges were first announced, members of the media believed they stemmed from Whitmer's orders to shut down the state of Michigan in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The governor has been the target of numerous protests by people angry over the state shutdown.
Some of those protests involved people storming the state capital while carrying rifles and other firearms. One such protest forced the state legislature to adjourn early and leave the building before the protesters arrived. While none of the events turned violent, officials believe the attendees have voiced more anger since President Donald Trump began tweeting at Whitmer and other governors that they needed to open up their states. Rhetoric on both sides has ramped up over the last few weeks. On Friday, former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton referred to the Michigan protesters as "domestic terrorists."