GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — A West Virginia man was sentenced Thursday to three years in federal prison after he sent emails threatening Dr. Anthony Fauci and another federal health official for speaking out about the coronavirus and efforts to prevent its spread.
Using an anonymous email account based in Switzerland, Thomas Patrick Connally, Jr. threatened to kill Fauci or members of his family, the US Department of Justice said in a press release. One of his messages said they would be “dragged into the street, beaten to death and set on fire.”
Another email said Fauci would be “hunted down, captured, tortured and killed,” according to court filings.
Fauci is the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Fauci has been a staunch supporter of vaccines and other preventive measures against COVID-19. He said he expects to retire at the end of Biden’s current term.
Another target was Dr. Francis Collins, who was director of the NIH at the time of Connally’s threats. Collins and his family were threatened with physical assault and death if Collins continued to speak out about the need for “mandatory” vaccinations for COVID-19, the Justice Department said.
Connally also admitted to sending threatening emails to Dr. Rachel Levine, then Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, said the Justice Department. An unidentified public health official in Massachusetts and a religious leader in New Jersey were also threatened.
“Everybody has the right to disagree, but you don’t have the right to threaten the life of a federal official,” said Eric L. Barron, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland.
U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced Connally, 56, to 37 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Connally most recently lived in Snowshoe, West Virginia.