Judge says threats against Murray terrorism

This article was taken from the Seattle PI Blogs.

In sentencing the Selah man who made a series of threats to Sen. Patty Murray, U.S. District Court Judge John C. Coughenour read a lengthy statement written by one of his law clerks, Colin George.

Before reading the statement, the federal judge noted that he’d asked his clerks to write down what they would tell Charles Alan Wilson when he was sentenced for leaving a string of explicit threats with Murray’s office. Wilson later told the court he was afraid the health reforms pushed by President Obama and supported by Murray  reforms derided on the right as being an overreach by the federal government  would cut into the disability benefits he was receiving.

Introducing George’s statement, Coughenour, a Reagan appointee who presided over the Ahmed Ressam terrorism trial, offered that he couldn’t express his concern better than his clerk.

The full text of the statement follows:

Mr. Wilson, I have no doubt in my mind that you are passionate about your country. That you respect the constitution. And that when you made those phone calls about what you perceived to be the dangers of health care reform, you thought you were standing up for what you believed to be American ideals. But I want to remind you about one of the most important American ideals of all.

The presidential election of 1800 was the first time in the history of this planet that power was transferred from one political faction or party to another without bloodshed. Power had transferred between political allies peacefully before, but between enemies, the only transfers had occurred with the help of swords and guns. The American system changed all that.

The very foundation of our system of laws and government, and the promise of democracy is that political change is accomplished through reasoned debate, through persuasion, and through voting.

And we have a word for people who try to effect political change through violence and threats of violence. Just this week, a commentator on one of the major news networks said, and I quote, “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” This is about as ignorant, hateful, and bigoted a statement as I can imagine. Terrorism is not a religion.

Terrorism is not an ethnicity. Terrorism is not a color. Terrorism is replacing peaceful political participation with violence.

At the same time, Mr. Wilson, ending terrorism is not a crusade. It’s not a clash of civilizations. It should not be an unending war, and it should not be an excuse to limit anyone’s freedom, American or not. Ending terrorism requires a commitment to the elimination of violence, coercion, and threats from political life. And when I hear people in the media who proclaim on one hand to be supporters of the “war on terror,” while on the other hand stirring up the kind of violent outrage against our elected leaders that you felt, well it makes me think that we have lost our way. And it makes me think we have the wrong defendant here today.

You lost your way, Mr. Wilson. And you let the urge for violence overcome your commitment to reason. And when you did so, you did not just break the law, you betrayed the values about which you are so passionate. Mr. Wilson, I believe that you are sincerely sorry for what your actions. And I doubt I will ever see you in my Court again. But as serious as our commitment to peaceful political change is, so must be the punishment for those who seek to effect change through threats and violence.

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