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Man Threatened to Lynch 2 Congressmen, U.S. Says

A judge on Monday ordered Kenneth R. Hubert of Missouri held in jail, saying his words rose to the level of posing danger.

Representative Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri is one of two congressmen whom Kenneth R. Hubert is accused of threatening.
Credit…Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

  • March 8, 2021

A Missouri man who prosecutors say threatened to lynch a Black congressman the day after the Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol and a Jewish congressman in 2019 was ordered by a federal judge on Monday to remain in custody.

The man, Kenneth R. Hubert, made the menacing comments toward the two Democratic representatives, Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, according to prosecutors, who contended that Mr. Hubert’s release on bond would present a danger to the community.

Mr. Hubert, 63, of Marionville, Mo., pleaded not guilty during a detention hearing on Monday in U.S. District Court in Springfield, Mo. He is charged in an indictment unsealed last week with two counts of threatening to kill or harm a United States official and one count of using an interstate communication to make a threat. His trial is scheduled to begin in May.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Hubert had an extensive history of leveling threats at elected officials and political party employees, the most recent of which came on Jan. 7 when, they say, he left a phone message at Mr. Cleaver’s Independence, Mo., office that contained a racial slur and expletives. Mr. Cleaver, who is from Kansas City, Mo., is Black.

According to a transcript of the message that was detailed by prosecutors, Mr. Hubert said, “How about a noose … around his neck?”

It was not the first time, prosecutors said, that Mr. Hubert had communicated such a lynching threat.

In a May 6, 2019, phone call to Mr. Cohen’s office in Washington, Mr. Hubert told a staff member that he had “a noose with the congressman’s name on it” and planned to “put a noose around his neck and drag him behind his pickup truck,” according to a transcript released by prosecutors.

Mr. Cohen, who is from Memphis, is Jewish. When F.B.I. agents questioned Mr. Hubert about the threat, prosecutors said, he told them that he had been offended by Mr. Cohen’s previous criticism of President Donald J. Trump.

“The defendant’s history exhibits that he has a complete disregard for law enforcement and the safety and security of the community,” prosecutors said in a motion for detention that was filed on Friday. “He has made numerous calls involving harassment and derogatory statements towards United States officials and private and political organizations.”

The judge who presided over Mr. Hubert’s detention hearing on Monday sided with prosecutors about his release.

“Mr. Hubert, words have meaning,” Chief Magistrate Judge David P. Rush said, according to The Kansas City Star. “And your words rise to the level of posing a danger.”

David Mercer, a federal public defender for Mr. Hubert, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday, but was quoted by The Star as telling Judge Rush that his client did not have a criminal record and that he had an increased risk of contracting the coronavirus if he remained in jail because of unspecified medical conditions.

Mr. Cleaver said in an email statement on Monday night that it was important to note that Mr. Hubert did not live in Mr. Cleaver’s congressional district and that the two had never met.

“But then, hate has such bad eyesight that a thrown rock might hit anyone within range,” Mr. Cleaver said. “Maybe it’s good that he remain in a place where there are no rocks.”

Mr. Cohen’s chief of staff declined to comment on Monday night, citing the continuing legal proceedings.

On the day of the Capitol siege, prosecutors said, Mr. Hubert left two voice-mail messages at the Missouri Democratic Party offices threatening to emulate the actions of the rioters.

Using an expletive, he asked if they saw what was “happening at the Capitol,” according to a transcript. “It’s coming your way next,” he said.

Mr. Hubert had previously made derogatory and threatening comments in phone calls to the Council on American-Islamic Relations in St. Louis and a federal judge in Montana, prosecutors said.