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A former nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital has pleaded guilty in Miami federal court to threatening to kill Vice President Kamala Harris, perhaps sealing her own fate because she recorded the threats in a series of videos she sent to her husband in prison.
Niviane Petit Phelps, a 39-year-old mother of three who had lived in Miami Gardens, admitted in a factual statement that she practiced at a gun range and applied for a concealed weapons permit.
Phelps, who was arrested last April and detained because she was considered a danger to the community, faces up to five years in prison at her sentencing on Nov. 19 before U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez.
According to a Secret Service complaint, five videos show that Phelps expressed rage over the victory of President Joe Biden and Harris in last November’s general election — but her motivation to threaten the vice president wasn’t just political.
Phelps, who is Black, also threatened to kill Harris in the videos because she believed the vice president “isn’t actually Black,” according to the complaint by a Secret Service agent, who spoke with her before her arrest. Harris, the first woman to hold the second highest office in the U.S., is Black of South Asian and Jamaican descent.
Charged in a six-count indictment, Phelps got caught because she sent the series of threatening videos along with two photographs to her husband, Joseph, who is locked up in state prison after being convicted of a 1996 armed robbery and murder of a grocery store owner.
Phelps’ defense attorney, Scott Saul, said she “has led an honorable life until this incident.”
Saul said Phelps would not have carried out any of her threats to the life of the vice president. He said “she was just venting as she was going through a tumultuous time in her life and never had any intent to carry out her threats … threats limited to discussions with her incarcerated husband.”
But her attorney also said “it has been important for Ms. Phelps to demonstrate her acceptance of responsibility as she begins to atone for her aberrant actions.”
Phelps lost her job as a longtime nurse at Jackson Health System after the charges were filed by federal prosecutors Abbie Waxman and Michael Gilfarb.
Jackson Health System, where Phelps had been employed for the past 20 years, said she worked most recently as a licensed practical nurse in the Ambulatory Care Center West at Jackson Memorial Medical Center.
According to the Secret Service criminal complaint, Phelps expressed her contempt for the vice president in the five videos and two photos that she made in February.
In a Feb. 13 video, Phelps was recorded saying, “Kamala Harris you are going to die. Your days are numbered,” the complaint says.
In another video dated Feb. 14, Phelps continued to threaten the vice president: “If I see you in the street, I’m gonna kill your ass Kamala Harris,” the complaint says. In yet another video that day, Phelps said, “I’m going to the gun range, just for your ass, until you f--kin’ leave the chair.” She vowed to carry out the threat in 50 days and applied for a concealed weapons permit, according to the complaint.
One of the two photos sent to her husband in prison depicts Phelps smiling as she holds a pistol next to a target containing bullet holes, according to the complaint. The second photograph shows Phelps’ teenage son holding a pistol and a target.
In early March, two Secret Service agents, along with Miami-Dade police detectives, visited Phelps’ home in Miami Gardens to interview her. She was read her Miranda rights, but she refused to talk. A couple of days later, Phelps called one of the Secret Service agents and told him that she had been put on administrative leave at her job with Jackson Health System. She said she wanted to talk.
On March 6, Secret Service Agent Lucas White said he spoke with Phelps at her home about the videos and photos she had sent her to husband in prison.
“Phelps started by saying that she was angry at the time about Kamala Harris becoming vice president, but that she is ‘over it now,’ ‘’ according to the complaint. “Phelps expressed how she believes Kamala Harris is not actually ‘Black’ and how during [the presidential] inauguration Kamala Harris disrespectfully put her hand on her clutch purse instead of the Bible.”
But Phelps said that now that the presidential election was over, somebody told her that she had to put her rage about the vice president aside.
White, the Secret Service agent, then questioned her about making the five videos, which were each 30 seconds long, as well as the two photos.
She told the agent that she went to the gun range to practice because of the unsafe neighborhood in which she lives, the complaint says. When White confronted her about saying in the video that she went to the gun range because of her feelings about Kamala Harris, Phelps replied that “she just does not like her.”