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Washington man charged with violent, racist threats against members of Congress

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A 48-year-old Washington state man was arrested Wednesday and later charged in federal court for making threats against members of Congress.

Officials with the Justice Department allege that Mark Leonetti, of Longview, left hundreds of violent, racist, and antisemitic voicemails, most recently talking about murdering elected officials, using detailed and graphic language.

Over the last two years, Leonetti was warned several times by law enforcement and mental health professionals, but the voicemails continued, officials said.

Nick Brown, the U.S. Attorney for Western Washington, said law enforcement and the Department of Justice are seeing “a dramatic increase” in “political threats.”

U.S. Capitol Police told KUOW there were nearly 10,000 cases involving serious threats of violence aimed at members of Congress last year. That's up nearly 150% over a five-year period.

Brown said as U.S. Attorney he needs to take verbal threats seriously, in part because of concerns that verbal threats can escalate into physical violence.

“We've all seen horrific acts of violence against elected officials or their family members, most recently with Speaker Pelosi's husband in California,” Brown said.

Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked by an intruder in his San Francisco home in October.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Western Washington did not release the names of the lawmakers Leonetti allegedly threatened.

Leonetti appeared Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Tacoma. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison because threats were made across state lines.

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