Despite the prosecution joining with the defense in the pursuit of leniency, a federal judge handed down a prison sentence for a Twin Cities man who phoned in deadly threats to a U.S. senator's office.
Brendon Michael Daugherty, 36, of Coon Rapids was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul to one year and one day in prison — below federal guidelines — after pleading guilty to interstate transmission of a threat to injure in connection with telephone messages he left with a senator's field office in June.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Eric Tostrud emphasized that threats directed at elected officials pose a "pernicious threat to our democratic institutions."
Public court records have not identified the target of Daugherty's threats other than to say the senator is a man and not from Minnesota.
The prosecution and defense agreed in their filings that federal sentencing guidelines left Daugherty vulnerable to a prison term ranging from 15 to 21 months. However, federal judges have full discretion when sentencing defendants and are not bound by the guidelines calculation.
Ahead of sentencing, the prosecution said in writing to the judge that Daugherty should receive no more time locked up than the six-plus months he's spent in jail since his arrest, along with three years' supervised release and participation in "a structured mental health plan."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Svendsen wrote that "Daugherty's autism spectrum disorder appears to have played a role in the commission of this offense, and there is no evidence that Daugherty made any plans to carry out his threat."
While in jail, Svendsen noted, "Daugherty ... has reportedly gotten on a medication regimen that has been successful in stabilizing his mental health condition."
Defense attorney Robert Richman followed up with his own presentence filing concurring with the prosecution that time served and then probation was sufficient punishment for Daugherty's "rash and impulsive behavior."
Richman added that when Daugherty "is not properly medicated, he finds it difficult to control his verbal outbursts, which he uses as an outlet to vent frustration."
The filing included Daugherty explaining in his own words that "I was anxious and irritable and ended up leaving a threatening voicemail. As soon as I realized what I had done, I called back a few times to apologize, but when I reached voicemail again, I just hung up. I soon forgot the whole thing until the FBI came to question me."
According to the indictment:
On June 11, Daugherty left two voice mail messages on the field office telephone of the senator. In the first, Daugherty said, "You and the Republican Party should be proud that you're pushing me to become a domestic terrorist. Have a nice [expletive] day. Can't wait to kill ya."
In the second message, he said, "I also just wanted to note, thank God the Republican Party is against gun control laws, because it would keep guns out of the hands of a person that was disabled and volatile like I am, but you guys are totally against that. So I may actually get to carry out my nefarious goals."
Field office staff retrieved and recorded the messages and reported them to U.S. Capitol Police.
On Sept. 2, FBI agents spoke to Daugherty at his home. He told them he made the calls because the senator was "doing a bunch of stupid [expletive] with gun control" and that he wants politicians to "feel a little bit pressured."
Court records show Daugherty was convicted in October 2018 of two felony counts for threatening on successive days to burn down a Pearle Vision store in Maple Grove and harm the employees. Daugherty was angry, according to the charges, over owing $80 for replacement eyeglasses.
His criminal history also includes two convictions for theft and one each for aggravated robbery, burglary, property damage, credit card fraud and fifth-degree assault.