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The California man who threatened to kill Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., has been sentenced by the Florida Department of Justice.
Eugene Huelsman, 59, of Thousand Oaks, pleaded guilty of one count of transmission of a threat in interstate commerce and was sentenced to six months of home confinement, United States Attorney Jason R. Coody for the Northern District of Florida Department of Justice announced Thursday.
“The free exercise of speech is central to our democracy. However, the communication of threats of physical violence, in this case by an individual who had previously made and been investigated for similar threats of violence, is clearly unlawful,” Coody said.
“With our law enforcement partners, we are committed to protecting public safety for all citizens,” he added.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-FL., walks down the House steps at the Capitol after the last votes of the week on Friday, April 1, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Sherri E. Onks, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division, said there are limits to an individual’s free speech and threats to a person’s life or wellbeing cross that line.
“Everyone has the right to express their opinion, but when you harass, intimidate, and threaten violence against others, it’s a federal crime that will not be tolerated,” Onks said, per a Justice Department release.
The FBI agent said the sentencing should “serve as a warning” for other individuals who seek to threaten lawmakers whom they disagree with politically.
“Words matter and this sentencing should serve as a warning,” she added. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will work to hold you accountable.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-FL, speaks during a campaign rally for J.D. Vance at The Trout Club in Newark, Ohio on April 30, 2022. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
The sentence came after Huelsman left a profanity-laced voicemail on the phone number for Gaetz’s congressional district office in Pensacola, Florida, which included threats to kill him, on Jan. 9, 2021.
“Today’s sentence acknowledges the defendant’s repeated threats of violence and should serve as a significant deterrent to those who would threaten violence against others rather than engage in lawful debate,” Coody continued.
Rep Matt Gaetz, R-FL, questions U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, DC on April 28, 2022. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
In the message, Huelsman said he was going to “put a bullet in” Gaetz and his family members. He also said he was “coming for” the Congressman, the Florida Justice Department said.
“Tell [M.G.] to watch his back, tell him to watch his children,” Huelsman allegedly said, according to court records.
“Watch your back, I’m coming for you. I’m gonna put a bullet in you and I’m gonna put a bullet in one of your f–king kids too,” he added, per the records.
Gaetz’s office contacted the United States Capitol Police and an ensuing investigation found Huelsman left the messages — and it was not his first time doing so.
In addition to the home confinement, Huelsman will serve five years’ probation and will have to pay a $10,000 fine.
Huelsman faced up to five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for the crime, the Florida Department of Justice said last year.