ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A western New York man pleaded guilty Monday to threatening to kill U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
Patrick Carlineo entered the plea Monday in Rochester, admitting to charges that carry up to 10 years in prison. His sentencing is set for Feb. 14.
U.S. Attorney James Kennedy Jr. said the case highlights that free speech rights carry the responsibility “that individuals not make threats to harm lawmakers simply because they may disagree with them.”
Omar, a Democrat, is among the first Muslim women in Congress. Her office had no immediate comment on Carlineo’s plea.
Prosecutors say the 55-year-old called Omar’s office March 21, told a staffer the congresswoman was a “terrorist” and threatened to shoot her.
Carlineo later told the FBI that he is a patriot, hates people he perceives to be radical Muslims in the U.S. government, and loves Republican President Donald Trump, according to a criminal complaint.
Carlineo’s lawyer, Sonya Zoghlin, says Carlineo is passionate about his political beliefs and his right to express them.
“He has taken responsibility for using threatening and inappropriate language to express those beliefs in this instance,” she said in an email, adding that Carlineo never intended to harm Omar and never made any plans to do so.
Carlineo’s plea included admitting he illegally had guns. He’d been barred from possessing them after a 1998 felony criminal mischief conviction, prosecutors said.
Omar, a Somali-American, has faced criticism from Trump and others for remarks she made in recent months about Israel, Jewish influence in Washington, and 9/11.
Omar has apologized for suggesting that lawmakers support Israel for money, has said she wasn’t criticizing Jews, and has said that criticizing the Israeli government is not anti-Semitic.
Last month, a North Dakota state senator said he was sorry for posting a long-debunked photo that purported to show Omar holding a weapon at an al-Qaida training camp. But the lawmaker, Republican Oley Larsen, added that he wouldn’t apologize to Omar.