Sunday, March 7, 2021

Man charged with threatening Congress by phone gets hearing

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A judge is deciding whether a New Hampshire man accused of threatening to kill members of Congress in December will remain jailed while his case proceeds.

Ryder Winegar, 33, of Amherst, is accused of leaving phone messages for six members of Congress on Dec. 16 threatening to hang them if they didn’t support former President Donald Trump. He was arrested Jan. 11 and had a detention hearing Thursday, during which a prosecutor argued he was both a flight risk and a danger to the community.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Rombeau said Winegar has provided inconsistent information about the number of guns he owns, his financial resources and whether he has ever sought treatment for mental illness. Winegar’s attorney may have explanations for the discrepancies, he said, “but when there’s a pattern of them, that is what of particular concern to the government.”

Defense attorney Charles Keefe denied that his client has been inconsistent and argued that Winegar should be released under restrictions including electronic monitoring.

“Ultimately, the number one reason my client will not flee this matter is because he misses his kids terribly and wants to get home to be with them,” he said.

Winegar flew to Brazil the day after police first tried to question him in December, but when he learned an arrest warrant had been issued, he voluntarily returned and presented himself for arrest at Boston’s Logan Airport. His original tickets called for a Jan. 18 return date.

“He doesn’t have the resources to move or leave for any extended period of time,” Keefe said.

The prosecutor called that statement “demonstrably false.”

“He clearly has the resources to do it, because he did it. He literally left the country and planned to be gone for a month,” Rombeau said. “The idea that this travel was anything other than an an attempt to avoid consequences for this action I think is awfully far fetched.”

Winegar owns a shotgun, a rifle, a handgun and a semiautomatic weapon, though his attorney said the latter two were not functional. Police also removed an armored vest and 500 to 1,000 rounds of ammunition from his home.

The names of the members of Congress he is accused of threatening have not been made public. According to prosecutors, he also sent a threatening email to a state lawmaker.

Magistrate Judge Andrea Johnstone did not rule on the detention issue Thursday.

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