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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 14, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 02
Millionaire arrested by FBI for threats to Rep. Jim McDermott
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Millionaire arrested by FBI for threats to Rep. Jim McDermott

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In a bizarre sequel to the story of Gabrielle Giffords - the Congress member shot in Tucson on January 8 - a California millionaire has been arrested for threatening the life of Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott (D-7).

The FBI arrested Charles Turner Habermann of Palm Springs, California, on January 10, about a month after he left threatening voicemails on McDermott's phone.

He is charged with one count of threatening a federal official. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in a federal prison.

According to federal court documents, Habermann left two rambling and 'expletive-laden' voicemails on McDermott's office phone, one at midnight on December 10, and the second only 10 minutes later.

Habermann left his name and phone number in the voicemails, so when McDermott's staffers notified the FBI of the calls the next day, agents had no problem tracking him down.

According to Special Agent Frederick Gutt of the FBI's Seattle office, Habermann was interviewed by FBI agents in California only four hours after the threats were reported.

Gutt told SGN that the arrest of Habermann was not connected to the Tucson shooting.

'It might look like that, like we said, 'What cases are we working that are related?' Gutt said, 'but actually it just took a while to come up with the additional historical information.'

This is not Habermann's first brush with the law.

Last March, he was investigated by the California Highway Patrol for voice messages threatening a California state legislator. At that time, he was reportedly upset with the federal health-care bill and with tax money spent on immigrants and Latinos, according to the complaint.

Habermann was not charged at that time, but received a formal warning not to engage in threatening conduct.

Gutt told SGN that the FBI had made a decision to charge Habermann 'about a week prior' to the arrest, but wanted to wait until they could document the March incident in court.

'We wanted to show this was not just a one-time incident,' he said.

Habermann made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Riverside, California, on the afternoon of January 12.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bristow set bond at $300,000 and placed him on home detention pending his next court date in Washington state on January 25.

McDermott's office confirmed that the threats occurred but declined to elaborate.

'Per the FBI's advice, we are referring all inquiries related to this matter to the FBI's Seattle office,' the Congressman said in a statement issued on January 12. 'I have full confidence in the law enforcement agencies handling the case and remain focused on serving my constituents.'

Habermann reportedly told the FBI that he did not actually intend to harm McDermott because he feared losing his $3 million trust fund.

'Habermann stated that he never had any intention of hurting anyone,' FBI Special Agent Dean Giboney testified in federal court, 'and that he had too much to lose - referring to his $3 million trust fund - to ever do anything which could get him sent to prison.'

Habermann also told FBI investigators that he was drunk at the time he made the calls.

'Although Habermann said he had been drinking alcohol before he made the calls, Habermann said he thought that he would have been able to drive his car when he made the calls,' the complaint says.

Habermann also admitted making calls to another member of Congress, identified in the complaint only by the initials 'C.P.'

It is apparent from the transcripts of Habermann's calls that he was enraged by McDermott's outspoken opposition to continuing Bush-era tax breaks for rich Americans.

'I was calling Jim McDermott because I saw him on television the other night and I realized what a disgusting, filthy, murderous cock-sucker he was,' Habermann said.

Habermann then referred directly to McDermott's position on tax cuts.

'That, that, that, that reducing taxes on rich people is, is in effect a tax cut in effect, it affected the government spending program. Jim, Jim McDermott's uh, theft of taxpayer dollars, the less he steals, means that the, that the less the government spends,' he said.

'He's a piece of filth. He's a criminal. He advocates stealing people's money to give it to losers,' Habermann says later in the voicemail.

Habermann expands on this theme is his second voicemail.

'You worthless stupid Democrat cock-sucking fuckers,' he says. 'You think you can steal my money and get away with it? You think you're gonna steal my fucking money and get away with it, you fuckers. You people are criminal scumbags and I hate, I hate you. I hate Jim McDermott.'

Habermann explicitly threatens the Congressman several times, saying things like 'I'll fucking kill him, OK. I'll round them up, I'll kill them, I'll kill his friends, I'll kill his family, I will kill everybody he fucking knows. All right!'

Jenny Durkan, U.S. attorney for Western Washington, said in a statement that such threats 'are intended to silence debate, not further it.'

'We are blessed to live in a country that guarantees and protects the freedom to disagree with our government and speak our minds,' Durkan said in her statement. 'That protection, however, does not extend to threats or acts of violence.'

'They instill fear not just in the immediate victims, but in many who might hold the same views or take the same course,' she continued. 'Such threats are crimes, and the individuals who make them must be held accountable.'

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