ORLANDO, Fla. — A Florida man has pleaded guilty to making a threatening phone call to former Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz this March, leaving a voicemail telling him that he would hunt him down.
Charles Zachary Howard of Winter Park, Florida, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to threatening Chaffetz, the Orlando Sentinel reports .
Howard, a registered Republican, called Chaffetz’s Washington office and threatened to hunt him down, “wrap a rope around your neck and hang you from a lamppost.”
The harassing call came one day after Chaffetz suggested in an appearance on CNN that people might want to spend money on their own health care rather than buying new iPhones. The comments came after he was asked how lower-income Americans would get access to health insurance when the Affordable Care Act is replaced. He
Chaffetz, who resigned from Congress in June saying he wanted to spend more time with his family, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he’s not sure if the iPhone comments triggered Howard’s phone call or if he was just targeted due to his frequent appearances on TV.
Chaffetz said he appreciates authorities taking the threat seriously and hopes that Howard gets the help he needs. Chaffetz said the voicemail went way, way too far and scared his staff and his family because it took a few days to figure out Howard’s location. Chaffetz said he was in Washington, but his wife and kids were in Utah.
“The concern was if he’s lashing out at me, would he act on something locally?” Chaffetz said. “Members of Congress while in DC are in a fortress protected by literally hundreds of police officers, but if somebody was that out of control, you just worry what might happen to somebody in their own house or a neighbor or in the local grocery store.”
Howard could receive up to five years in prison, but prosecutors agreed to seek a light sentence, citing Howard’s military service and mental health problems. No sentencing date has been set.