BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges that he threatened to assault and murder former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Richard Lee Rogers of Billings entered the plea during an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan in federal court.
Rogers is charged with threats to injure and murder a member of Congress, which carries a 10-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine. He faces a second charge of making harassing telephone calls.
The threats allegedly happened Feb. 3, several weeks after Republicans elected McCarthy to his short-lived tenure as speaker — which was characterized by frequent clashes with hard-right members of his own party.
“If I’ve ever made anyone feel that I was dangerous, or a threat, I’m sorry,” he wrote.
A grand jury indictment filed last month said the threats were intended as retaliation for McCarthy's actions as House speaker but did not provide details. The indictment said Rogers made repeated interstate phone calls “solely to harass a person” but did not name the person.
Rogers and attorney Vann Arvanetes from the Federal Defenders of Montana declined comment as they left the courtroom.
In his social media posts Rogers expressed strong support for former President Donald Trump and said he was in Washington D.C. during the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by Trump supporters.
His wife, Laurie Rogers, said in a brief interview that her husband never threatened anyone except to say during his calls to officials “that he would use his Second Amendment rights to defend himself,” referring to the right to keep and bear arms.
“Why would he threaten the people he was talking to? That would absolutely get him nowhere," she added.
Rogers has no prior criminal history, according to the judge, who allowed the defendant to remain free under conditions including no drugs or alcohol and no access to firearms. Rogers told the judge that he owns firearms but moved them to his mother's house where they are in a locked safe he can not access.