BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A western New York man convicted of leaving menacing phone messages for two prominent Republican members of Congress was sentenced to five years in prison, prosecutors said Thursday.
Bayon left voicemails last year for Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington that authorities said crossed the line into threats.
“Today’s sentence should send a strong message to those who seek to express their political views by making threats to public officials,” U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. said in a release Thursday.
Bayon, 64, has admitted leaving the messages but said he sought only to communicate outrage about the Trump administration’s immigration and family separation policies.
He has been representing himself in court. A message was sent to a lawyer who was appointed to assist him and filed notice Thursday of a planned appeal.
The voicemails left for the two politicians included threats to “feed them lead” and warned that “you will pay,” prosecutors said.
“You are taking ours. We are taking yours,” the messages said, according to prosecutors.
Authorities said they found a loaded rifle, 150 rounds of rifle ammunition and books on bomb-making in Bayon’s Grand Island, New York, home and a storage garage.
The messages arrived a year after Scalise, now the No. 2 House GOP leader, was gravely wounded when a gunman attacked a Republican practice for a congressional baseball game. Scalise was hospitalized for more than a month after suffering shattered bones and internal organ damage; doctors said he had nearly died.
Capitol Police and other officers killed the gunman, who had nursed grievances against Republican President Donald Trump and his party.
McMorris Rodgers was also in the Republican House leadership at the time of Bayon’s voicemails.
Messages were sent Thursday evening to representatives for both politicians, requesting comment on the sentencing.
At the time of Bayon’s arrest, Scalise spokesman Chris Bond said the congressman was grateful to law enforcement and that “there is absolutely no place for violence in our political discourse.”
A federal jury in Buffalo convicted Bayon in August of retaliating against a public official and making interstate threats.