A man who sent death threats to Dr Anthony Fauci has been sentenced to three years in prison.
The Snowshoe, West Virginia, resident sent threatening emails to the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), with one stating that his family would be beaten to death and set aflame, prosecutors revealed, according to The New York Times.
In May, Thomas Patrick Connally Jr, 56, pleaded guilty to making threats against a federal official. The US Attorney’s Office in Maryland has said that he also acknowledged sending threats to other public health leaders such as Dr Francis Collins, who led the National Institutes of Health from 2009 until December of last year. Dr Collins is the acting science adviser to the president while Dr Fauci is the chief medical adviser.
Maryland US District Court Judge Paula Xinis sentenced the 56-year-old on Thursday to 37 months in prison and three years of supervised release. In the plea agreement, Connally admitted to sending the emails to Dr Fauci between 28 December 2020 and 25 July last year from an anonymous and encrypted email address, according to a statement by federal prosecutors.
On 21 July last year, Connally wrote to Dr Fauci, “I will slaughter your entire family. You will pay with your children’s blood for your crimes”, according to court filings.
Sentencing documents from Wednesday revealed that federal public defender Ellie Marranzini said that Connolly’s mother had been isolated in a nursing home – a situation that had increased his stress levels. She added that Connolly was “acutely concerned about” the effects of social isolation on those living in nursing homes.
The threats aimed at Dr Fauci came amid a torrent of abuse against public health officials as they pushed for the use of masks and social distancing as the pandemic raged on.
Dr Fauci, 81, became a hero to some, but he was strongly disliked by many others, with Trump supporters at times chanting “fire Fauci”. Former President Donald Trump sometimes spoke aloud about possibly removing him from his position, which he has held since 1984. He was falsely accused of creating the virus and making a profit from the vaccines, according to The Times.
Maryland US Attorney Erek Barron said in a statement on Thursday that while “everyone has the right to disagree … you do not have the right to threaten a federal official’s life”.
Federal prosecutors also said that Connolly sent threatening messages to Dr Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary for Health.
Connolly sent four emails to Dr Collins from 9.34pm on 24 April 2021, which included personal and family threats, such as assault and death if he “did not stop speaking about the need for ‘mandatory’ Covid-19 vaccinations”, according to prosecutors.
“Connally admitted that he sent the threats to Drs Fauci and Collins with the intent to intimidate or interfere with the performance of their official duties”, they said in a statement, adding that it was “with the intent to retaliate against Dr Fauci and Dr Collins for performing their official duties, including discussing Covid-19 and its testing and prevention”.
He was arrested in Snowshoe in July last year. When searching his home, authorities found five laptops and two mobile phones.
A Monday sentencing memo stated that the emails from Connolly amounted to a “campaign of terror”.
“Smart and technologically sophisticated, the defendant intended to heighten the terror he sought to instill by using a foreign encrypted email provider”, prosecutors wrote in the memo. “Using this provider also allowed the defendant to hide his identity and continue to send his threatening emails unabated.”