A Frederick man was found guilty of voter intimidation for leaving a letter in a mailbox that threatened then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and other prominent Democrats.
James Dale Reed, 42, faced one count each of voter intimidation and making a threat of mass violence. During a Frederick County District Court bench trial Wednesday, Judge Eric William Schaffer found Reed guilty of voter intimidation but not guilty of the latter. The verdict came after the judge heard arguments and testimony from the state and defense, according to the Frederick County State's Attorney's Office.
Schaffer sentenced Reed to two years in prison, suspending all but time served (132 days). He will undergo three years of supervised probation.
“In the rendering of his verdict, Judge Schaffer stated that the Maryland statute requires a minimum of five people be threatened to constitute a threat of mass violence," State's Attorney Charlie Smith said in a prepared statement. "We respect his interpretation of the law, but believe that the letter clearly represented a serious threat of political violence against a larger group of people.”
Frederick residents found a letter in their mailbox Oct. 4 that threatened Biden, then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, and former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, the state's attorney's office said. Reed reportedly targeted this address due to the political signs displayed on their property. Frederick Police Department responded to the home and investigated.
A criminal complaint was also filed Oct. 21 against Reed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland for threatening major candidates for the office of president and vice president. There were no hearings scheduled in this case as of Wednesday night. The maximum penalty for conviction of this offense is five years imprisonment.
The Frederick County State's Attorney's Office said the letter also stated, “this is a warning to anyone reading this letter that if you are a Biden/Harris supporter you will be 'targeted,' have a list of homes and addresses by your election signs.”
An affidavit filed in support of the federal criminal complaint said doorbell camera footage and an anonymous tip helped lead investigators to identifying Reed. He was already known to the U.S. Secret Service for threatening a person under its protection in 2014, according to the affidavit.
Reed initially denied his involvement when authorities visited his home Oct. 13. Two days later, he admitted to writing and delivering the letter after agents came to request palm prints and a handwriting sample, the affidavit states.
In Frederick County District Court, the state was represented by Assistant State’s Attorney Samantha Slattery.
Reed was represented by the Frederick County Public Defender's Office, which could not be reached after hours Wednesday.