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New York man threatened to kill Donald Trump, prosecutors charge

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  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th President of the United States

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A New York man upset with what he perceived as Donald Trump's threats to democracy was criminally charged on Monday with threatening to kill the former U.S. president, who he once referred to as Hitler.

Prosecutors said the defendant, Thomas Welnicki, 72, of Rockaway Beach, threatened to do "everything I can" to ensure Trump's death, and once inquired about Secret Service protection for former presidents and their children.

Welnicki was accused in a criminal complaint of discussing Trump's demise in several voluntary communications with U.S. Capitol Police and the Secret Service between July 2020 and December 2021, during and after Trump's presidency.

The case was brought as Trump, a Republican, continues pressing https://www.reuters.com/world/us/trumps-false-claims-debunked-2020-election-jan-6-riot-2022-01-06 false claims that widespread voting fraud caused him to lose the November 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden.

"Mr. Welnicki intended no harm to anyone," his lawyer Deirdre von Dornum, attorney-in-charge of the federal defender's office in Brooklyn, said in an email. "He was expressing how distraught he was at what he saw as the threats to our democracy posed by former President Trump."

Lawyers and spokespeople for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon set bail at $50,000, and ordered Welnicki to undergo alcohol and mental health treatment and submit to GPS monitoring.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor Zapana said there remained "lingering concern" about the defendant following his "very concrete and scary threats."

Von Dornum countered that Welnicki had not left New York City for 15 years, and that if he were a danger "they would have arrested him sooner."

According to the criminal complaint, Welnicki told Capitol Police in July 2020 that if Trump lost the election and refused to step down, he would "acquire weapons" and "take him down."

Welnicki allegedly later called the Secret Service around Jan. 4, 2021, threatening to kill Trump and 12 unnamed congressional supporters, and referring to a $350,000 bounty.

"I will do anything I can to take out (Trump) and his 12 monkeys," Welnicki was quoted as saying. "Tomorrow (Trump) will be in Georgia, maybe I will."

Trump visited Georgia that day https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-promises-new-day-trump-heads-georgia-eve-pivotal-senate-runoffs-2021-01-04 to campaign for two incumbent Republican senators who sought unsuccessfully to win re-election and keep the U.S. Senate under Republican control.

Two days later, on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump supporters assaulted the U.S. Capitol in a failed bid to overturn the presidential election.

Prosecutors said Welnicki's threats continued into the autumn of 2021, when he likened Trump to Adolf Hitler and referred to Trump's children.

He also allegedly told the Secret Service on Dec. 2, 2021 that "the new Civil War could break out and taking up arms against the government is justified when ballots don't matter."

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Howard Goller and David Gregorio)

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