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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Threatening Maxine Waters earns Texas man 33 months in prison

Brian Michael Gaherty made four phone calls to the offices of Congresswoman Waters, threatening to kill her. He also threatened two other congresswomen of color.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A 62-year-old man living in Houston was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison, on Monday, for making racist and threatening phone calls to Congresswoman Maxine Waters in 2022.

Brian Michael Gaherty pleaded guilty last year to one count of threatening a U.S. official, admitting to have made four separate phone calls to Waters’ offices, using numerous racial epithets while threatening to assault or murder her.

“I’mma cut your Black ass throat n***a,” he said on a voicemail message. “We got something for your ass now bitch, you Black motherfucker ... We coming for your Black ass.”

After two of the calls, Gaherty was contacted by a United States Capitol Police Special Agent. He denied making any threats and gave the officer a false name. He then made two more calls to Waters’ offices. In the last one, he spoke to a staff member at the lawmaker’s district office in Hawthorne: “Tell Congresswoman Maxine Waters when I see her on the street I’m going to bust her upside her head.”

He also made threatening phone calls to two other congresswomen of color, including a Latina legislator, saying, “I ain’t threatening you fucking Latino whore.”

The 85-year-old Waters, who has represented parts of southern LA County for 33 years, was in court for the sentencing along with members of her family and a handful of supporters. She told the judge that the threats had given her nightmares; she found Gaherty’s promise to cut her throat particularly unnerving.

“I’m fearful,” Waters said. “I’m afraid to be approached by strangers.”

Gaherty, who appeared in court clean, calm and extremely polite, said that he has no memory of making the phone calls, and that he was disgusted when FBI agents played them for him.

“I’m sorry for what I did,” Gaherty said, speaking to Waters directly. “As God as my witness. From one Christian to another, I ask for your forgiveness.” He added: “I’m deeply sorry. I can understand the fear it caused.”

Gaherty’s attorney, Joseph Vinas, had asked for a sentence of either house arrest or time served plus supervised release. He said that Gaherty was a victim of a violent crime in 2016, having been shot in the back and robbed while he washed his car in his driveway. The shooting left him both physically and mentally debilitated; he has since suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as depression and bipolar disorder.

“Mr. Gaherty routinely wakes in the middle of the night to patrol his home and stand guard against any would-be intruders,” Vinas wrote in his sentencing memo. Vinas called the statements made over the phone “delusional rantings of a man who, through no fault of his own, suffers from a complex combination of mental illnesses.” Vinas also argued that the federal prison system “is not equipped to care for Mr. Gaherty’s complex cocktail of mental and physical ailments. Home confinement would be more efficient and just under his circumstances.”

“We know what he said,” Vinas told the judge. “We’re talking about 4.5 minutes of words. Terrible words. But he had no plan. There were no credible threats.”

Assistant United States Attorney Laura Alexander said the fact that the Gaherty made no attempt to inflict violence on Waters wasn’t the point. The threat was intended, she said, to stop Waters from performing her duty as a Congresswoman — “to silence her. To tell her, ‘Take up less space as an African American.’”

Alexander said the fact that he made more phone calls after being contacted by the law enforcement official the first time indicated that Gaherty “remembered exactly what he did.”

“If he were just paranoid, he would have called a white Congresswoman,” she added. “He only called Congresswoman of color.”

Judge Gary Klausner agreed with the recommendations of both the prosecutors and the probation office, sentencing Gaherty to 33 months in prison, which includes a sentencing enhancement for a hate crime. He was also fined $10,000. Klausner said little in the way of explanation for the sentence.

Vinas asked the judge that his client be allowed to travel back to Texas and turn himself in to authorities there; the judge denied that request, and Gaherty was taken into custody.

Shortly after the hearing, when asked if he had anything else he wanted to say, Gaherty told this reporter, “I love everybody and I’m sorry this happened. I have no hatred in my heart.”

Waters praised the sentence.

“I’m hopeful this will be a deterrent for those who would like to kill us and terrorize us,” Waters said. She said she doubted the sincerity of Gaherty’s apology, saying, “When you’re in that situation, you’ll do everything you can to avoid losing.”

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Categories / Criminal, Politics

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