A Botetourt County man faces federal charges for allegedly making a series of on-line threats against Congressman Bob Goodlatte. The U.S. Attorney’s office says 38-year-old Christopher McGowan used Twitter to make threats that included “I am not making a joke — I will kill him” and “I am buying [a gun] intended for you in three days.” McGowan is jailed pending a bond hearing next Wednesday.
From the US Attorney’s Office: Roanoke, VIRGINIA – United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced today the arrest of a Roanoke man accused of using social media to communicate threats against U.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte. Congressman Goodlatte represents the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives and is the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The United States Attorney’s Office charged Christopher Michael McGowan, 38, in a criminal complaint with one count of making a threatening communication through interstate commerce. “Federal law criminalizes threatening communications made through the internet or a telephone, and these types of threats are not protected by the First Amendment,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated. “As this case indicates, our office will act swiftly to address threats of gun violence.”
According to the criminal complaint and affidavit, on or about December 17, 2017, McGowan allegedly tweeted to United States Congressman Bob Goodlatte a series of messages threatening the Congressman. “I will do this in full belief I am defending the constitution of the United States. I am not making a joke. I will kill him. Should you believe my doing so would be illegal please arrest me so we can have this discussion in court BEFORE I actually do it. Thank you.”
On December 18, 2017, officers with the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office visited McGowan at his home and interviewed him. During the interview, McGowan admitted to sending the tweets the previous day, but stated he did not own firearms and did not intend on hurting Congressman Goodlatte or anyone else. In a subsequent series of tweets sent from McGowan to Congressman Goodlatte on April 1, 2018, however, McGowan stated the following:
“I’m serious, @BobGoodlatte6 …you keep f**king with our constitution and challenging Mueller and the last you see will be my patriot ass behind a gun you should have long ago have prevented me owning pulling a trigger to your head (SIC). Want me arrested>? GO head.”
“#1 threatened my congressman with violence #2 stated I would kill people. #3: pretty much declared I would commit a plethora of anti-social behavior, publicly. Whom would like to bet I can purchase a gun three days from now and NOT be locked up in jail? #proudtobeanAmerican”
“…Corruption happens on so many levels and in so many ways…but YOU have truly taken it to an extreme. History will hate you even more than I do. You better get on those gun laws. I am buying one intended for you in 3 days. Can you legally stop me?”
McGowan was arrested this morning and had his initial appearance in U.S. District Court this afternoon. He was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshals pending a bond hearing next Wednesday. The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Roanoke City Police Department, the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office, and the United States Capitol Police. Assistant United States Attorney Jake Jacobsen will prosecute the case for the United States.
A criminal complaint is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.