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Montana lawmakers not intimidated by threatening letters, white powder

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The Montana State Capitol in Helena on Wednesday, April 26, 2023. PHOTO BY MIKE CLARK


Republican leadership in the Montana State House of Representatives said Saturday legislators would not be intimidated by “vague and threatening letters” they received this week with an unknown white powder.

Reps. Rhonda Knudsen, R-Culbertson, and Neil Duram, R-Eureka, both received anonymous letters at their homes with local return addresses but post office markings from Kansas City, according to a news release. It said neither representative has experienced symptoms and other lawmakers have been warned.

“Anonymous actions like this are not expressions of free speech but rather are cowardly attempts to coerce and harm elected officials. I will not be intimidated by these kinds of tactics,” Knudsen said in a statement.

Knudsen received the letter Thursday and opened it Friday, and Duram had a similar timeline, said a spokesperson.

The news release said inside the main envelopes were vague and threatening letters accompanied by a smaller envelope containing an unknown white powder. It said both representatives have reported that they feel fine and have not experienced any symptoms of a biological or chemical attack.

Both letters are now in the possession of local law enforcement, the news release said.

The state attorney general and local law enforcement are investigating and working to test the powder to determine its composition. The turnaround time for test results wasn’t immediately available Saturday. Attorney General Austin Knudsen is Rhonda Knudsen’s son.

Legislative leadership and legislative staff worked Friday night to notify all Montana legislators of the letters and warn them not to open any suspicious mail and to immediately report any suspect mail to law enforcement, the news release said.

The anonymous letters received by Montana lawmakers appear to be similar to letters received by legislators in Kansas and Tennessee earlier this week, the news release said.

In the news release, Speaker of the House Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, said leadership was committed to the safety of Montanans.

“These letters mailed to Speaker Pro Tempore Rhonda Knudsen and Rep. Neil Duram containing an unknown substance are a continuation of the threats and hate directed at legislators during the session,” Regier said. “We pray and hope that the white powder is benign while we await test results.

“Just as we stood firm during the session, we will not be threatened or distracted now. We are in tumultuous times and House leadership will continue our objective to protect Montanans’ freedom and safety no matter what cowardly threats are directed at us.”

House Majority Leader Sue Vinton, R-Billings, also condemned the threats.

“I stand in support of our members and condemn any acts of intimidation directed at our citizen legislators,”  Vinton said in a statement.

Additionally, Rep. Knudsen praised law enforcement for reacting quickly.

“I also want to acknowledge the very quick response by the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Jason Frederick sent a deputy to my residence and the deputy secured the letter and immediately removed it from my home,” Knudsen said.

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