Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Ann S. Kim email@example.com
PORTLAND - A Portland man who was accused of mailing death threats to Gov. Paul LePage and two members of Congress pleaded guilty to five charges in federal court Wednesday.
Michael Raphael Thomas, 52, entered pleas for one count of mailing a threatening communication, for a letter to LePage, and two counts of threatening to murder a member of Congress, for letters to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
He also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon and interstate stalking, targeting a Massachusetts man. He sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Thomas faces a maximum of five years in prison for the threat to LePage and 10 years for each of the other charges. Each charge also carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
Court documents include excerpts of letters laced with expletives, threats of shootings and anti-Semitic sentiments.
Thomas was accused of sending at least three anonymous letters to LePage last year. One from January 2011 said the writer had not voted for LePage.
"Now I'm ready to vote with a bullet. Yes. Thank God for our Second Amendment remedies. I've got you in my cross-hairs ..." the letter said.
One of the letters to the governor yielded DNA evidence that was used to identify Thomas.
Evan Beal, a spokesman for LePage, said the governor's office had no comment on the case Wednesday.
Earlier in Thomas' case, testimony indicated that he suffered from mental illness, including antisocial and paranoid disorders for which he was deemed disabled in 2002. When he was arrested in March 2011, he was living at Loring House, a subsidized Portland Housing Authority property for senior citizens and the disabled.
FBI agents said they found a .45-caliber pistol in Thomas' bedroom. He is prohibited from having guns because of a stalking conviction in 2000 in Lynn, Mass.
On Wednesday, Thomas entered the courtroom in baggy orange jail clothes and ankle shackles, with his hands cuffed behind his back. He said during the hearing that he was taking medication for asthma and high blood pressure but not any psychiatric medications.
He spoke clearly in response to procedural questions from Judge D. Brock Hornby.
Letters sent to Lieberman and King praised the person who would spill their blood and the blood of their families. Each ended with "Salaam Alekum," Arabic for peace be upon you.
The letter to Lieberman in May 2010 called the senator names including "traitor," "Nazi" and "fascist."
"Everything will be helter skelter. You have been unmasked & now the time has come for your final exit," the letter said.
The letter to King in June 2010 described the congressman as providing "aid and comfort to domestic enemies of the Constitution of the United States of America."
The letter warned, "We have guns & bullets for you & other traitors in the Republican Party & the Tea Party."
From 2006 and 2011, Thomas sent 14 letters targeting a Jewish man in Massachusetts. Some -- including two with photographs of concentration camp victims -- were sent to the man and others were sent to his neighbors, workplaces and the Danvers Police Department.
One letter, with a white substance that turned out to be baby powder, prompted the evacuation of a business in Danvers.
Thomas legally changed his name in 2007 from Shawn Patrick Higgins. He has also used "Sean" as a variation of his first name.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: