Montana man charged for threats to Democratic US senator
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MISSOULA—A Montana man has been charged with threatening the life of Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester via voicemails left at his Kalispell office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Kevin Patrick Smith, 45, pleaded not guilty Thursday to two felony counts of threats to injure and murder a U.S. Senator during a hearing in Missoula. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen DeSoto ordered Smith held in federal custody at least until a detention hearing set for Monday.
Smith’s public defender, Andy Nelson, said Smith is presumed innocent.
The first count refers to calls made Jan. 30 and the second is for messages left Feb. 10, after the FBI had warned Smith against making any more threats.
The voicemails included threats to “rip your head off” and were laced with profanity. The caller acknowledged in a recording that he was threatening Tester “on purpose,” court records said.
“I would love to see your FBI at the door,” one message said.
The FBI met with Smith on Feb. 1 and told him to stop threatening physical violence toward Tester or any elected official.
However, an initial complaint said threatening voice messages were left at Tester’s office on Feb. 10, 11 and 13 from Smith’s number in which the caller talks about not pulling a gun’s trigger until he knows what he’s aiming at.
“I know who you are,” the caller says.
The criminal complaint, which was later replaced by an indictment, said calls from Smith’s phone number to Tester’s office in Kalispell began in late 2022.
Tester this week announced he was going to seek a fourth term in the U.S. Senate. A third-generation farmer and former music teacher, Tester has leaned on a folksy speaking style and populist-themed messages to overcome Republican opponents in each of his last three elections.