By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors on Monday said a Connecticut man has been criminally charged with threatening to murder Representative Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who led the prosecution of Republican President Donald Trump in his recent impeachment trial.
Robert M. Phelps, 62, of Torrington, was arrested on March 13 and released on $25,000 bond after appearing before a federal magistrate judge in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The office of the federal public defender representing Phelps declined to comment on Monday. Schiff's office, through a spokesman, also declined to comment.
According to an affidavit from an FBI agent, Phelps emailed Schiff's office last Nov. 12 through a "Meeting Request" form on the congressman's website, and wrote "I want to kill you with my bare hands and smash your ... face in."
The agent also said that in a space requesting the preferred days of the week for a meeting, Phelps wrote "Measure your Coffin day."
Phelps told investigators in a Dec. 4 interview at his home that he sent the email but did not view it as threatening, saying he had a right to contact members of Congress and defend "his president," the agent added.
The defendant identified himself as a Republican in the email and interview, the agent said, and told investigators he would not send any more threatening emails.
Prosecutors charged Phelps with threatening to assault and murder Schiff with the intent to impede, intimidate or interfere with his official duties, including the impeachment proceedings. The charge carries a maximum 10-year prison term.
Phelps was also charged with making interstate threats, which carries a maximum five-year prison term.
Trump has often criticized Schiff, including in a Jan. 26 tweet during the impeachment trial when he said the congressman "has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!"
Asked that day on NBC's "Meet the Press" if he viewed the comment as a threat, Schiff said: "I think it was intended to be."
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)