(Reuters) - An unemployed Indiana man was charged on Friday with making death threats against House Speaker John Boehner because the House did not vote to extend unemployment insurance, federal prosecutors said.
Brandon Thompson, 32, of New Castle could face five years in prison if convicted of making e-mail and telephone threats against an elected official, according to a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett for the Southern District of Indiana.
The threats started on March 31, when Thompson sent an e-mail to Boehner saying "well you drunk John Bin Laden it's time to take you out" and threatened to kill Boehner "with my sniper rifle," according to a criminal complaint.
Thompson also made multiple calls to the cell phone of Boehner's wife, Debbie Boehner, the complaint said. Thompson allegedly left messages saying he was coming for the Republican congressman and would "rip his (expletive) head off."
Last December, 1.3 million Americans lost unemployment benefits when the House of Representatives failed to reach agreement on the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.
Thompson admitted sending the messages when he was arrested on Thursday, the complaint said. He has no criminal history and was released to home detention.
Monica Foster, chief federal defender in Indianapolis, noted that Thompson lost his unemployment benefits in January.
"People in the heartland are frustrated by our elected officials," said Foster. She said while this doesn't make threatening an elected official lawful, "I think it provides some context for what happened here."
A spokesman for Boehner had no comment on the arrest.
Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Chris Reese