A Texas woman is facing federal charges, accused of leaving a threatening message to U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who’s overseeing former President Donald Trump’s January 6 case.
According to court documents filed in the Southern District of Texas court, 43-year-old Abigail Jo Shry of Alvin, Texas, called Chutkan’s chambers on the evening of August 5 and left “a threatening voicemail message.” Federal investigators with the Department of Homeland Security said that Shry started her call by saying, “Hey you stupid slave,” followed by a racial slur.
During the call, investigators said, Shry “threatened to kill anyone who went after former President Trump.” She also specifically threatened to kill Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat representing Texas’ 18th Congressional District, as well as “all Democrats in Washington, D.C., and all people of the LGBTQ community,” read the filing from Friday.
“The caller further stated, ‘You are in our sights, we want to kill you,’ and ‘We want to kill Sheila Jackson Lee,'” the filing continued, which was signed by DHS Special Agent Joshua Henry.
“If Trump doesn’t get elected in 2024, we are coming to kill you, so tread lightly, b****,” the call continued. Shry also reportedly told Chutkan, “You will be targeted personally, publicly, your family, all of it.”
Administrative Office of the U.S. District Court
DHS agents questioned Shry at her residence on August 8, the filing continued, during which she admitted to making the call to Chutkan’s chambers. Shry also reportedly told investigators that she had no plans to travel to Washington, D.C., or Houston, Texas, to carry out her threats, but added that if Lee “comes to Alvin, then we need to worry.”
Shry is being charged with one count of transmitting a threat to injure another person, a felony that carries a maximum of five years in prison. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam Sheldon also ordered during a preliminary detention hearing that Shry is to remain in custody for the next 30 days “to reasonably assure the safety of any other person or the community.”
Sheldon wrote in his order filed on Wednesday that Shry has been charged four separate times in the past year for “engaging in similar conduct,” including two counts for which she was sentenced to 30 days in prison.
Newsweek reached out to Lee’s office via email Wednesday night for comment.
Rising Cases of Political Violence
Experts warn that threats against public officials appear to be steadily rising. According to research conducted by the National Counterterrorism Innovation Technology and Education Center (NCITE) at the University of Nebraska, federal law enforcement issued 38 charges in 2013 for such attacks, while 74 were issued last year.
Politically charged threats are most commonly made to members of the criminal justice system, including judges, reported NCITE, which counted 501 threats that have been made in the past 10 years. The organization noted that its research only takes into account federally charged cases, and that other threats potentially reported to local authorities were not included.
The Anti-Defamation League has also established a databased alongside researchers at Princeton University to track incidents of threats and harassment against local government officials. According to a report released in October, threats of death and gun violence were “twice as common” than any other form, and women officials were targeted at a higher frequency.
Last week, FBI agents shot and killed 75-year-old Craig Deleeuw Robertson while trying to serve a search warrant at his home in Provo, Utah. Robertson had posted several threats against President Joe Biden on his social media account, and was facing three felony counts, including charges of making threats against the president and the FBI agents investigating him, read court documents.
Chutkan’s Stance Against Threats in Trump’s Jan. 6 Case
In her court case involving Trump, Chutkan has given the former president a strict warning against making any “inflammatory” statements that could be interpreted as a threat against witnesses or others involved in the case. Trump is facing four federal counts in Washington, D.C., court for his purported attempt to remain in the White House after losing the 2020 election to Biden.
During a hearing last week regarding a protective order for evidence in the case, Chutkan told the former president and his legal team, “I caution you and your client to take special care in your public statements about this case.”
“I will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings,” she added.
A protective order was first requested by federal prosecutors who argued that Trump’s past public statements on social media pertaining to the court cases against him showed that limits needed to be imposed on public discourse regarding evidence. Special Counsel Jack Smith, who led the Justice Department’s investigation, specifically mentioned an August 4 post on Trump’s Truth Social account which read, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!”
Update 08/16/23, 9:00 p.m. ET: This article has been updated with additional information and background.