Federal judge sentences Delta Junction man who threatened Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan

Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski in August, 2020. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline sentenced 65-year-old Jay Allen Johnson to 32 months in federal prison and fined him $5,000 for threatening to kill U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan last year.

U.S. Attorney for Alaska John Kuhn says it’s a fair sentence that he hopes will address a growing threat to the nation’s elected officials.

“There’s been an enormous erosion of civility, respect and tolerance in our public and political discourse. And this has led to more acts of violence and threats of violence against our public officials,” Kuhn said in an interview Friday.

Johnson was arrested by FBI agents in October after an investigation identified him as the caller who left more than a dozen threatening and profanity-laced voicemails for both senators. In one directed at Murkowski, he asked if she knows what happens when a .50-caliber bullet strikes a human head. In another, he threatened to burn down her properties and demanded that she resign or die.

“For Democracy to work, our public officials must be able to operate without fear or threats against them,” Kuhn said. “And that’s why this prosecution was so important. And we were very pleased with the significant sentence that Mr. Johnson received.”

In November, Johnson pleaded not guilty to six charges related to his threats and being a felon in possession of firearms. But in January he changed his plea to guilty on two charges of threatening to kill the senators. As part of the plea deal, Johnson is prohibited from contacting either senator or their family or staff members. He was also required to forfeit seven firearms he and his wife kept at their home in Delta Junction. She was not charged.

Johnson has been held since his arrest at Fairbanks Correctional Center. Kuhn says the federal Bureau of Prisons will now determine when and where he’ll begin serving his sentence.

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