A 28-year-old man in Syracuse, New York, named Patrick Angelo faces criminal charges for threatening Rep. John Katko and his family over the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed repeal of the network neutrality rules. If found guilty, Angelo could spend up to 10 years in prison and be fined up to $250,000. Katko is a Republican whose district includes Syracuse.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York, Angelo called Rep. Katko’s Washington, D.C., offices on Oct. 19 and left a disturbing voicemail. From the U.S. attorney’s office press release:
The message stated: “Listen Mr. Katko, if you support net neutrality, I will support you. But if you don’t support net neutrality, I will find you and your family and I will kill…you…all. Do you understand?” The message continued: “I will literally find all…of…you and your progeny and t- just wipe you from the face of the earth. Net neutrality is more important than the defense of the United States. Net neutrality is more important than free speech. Net neutrality is more important than health care. Net neutrality is literally the basis of the new society. That even if you don’t understand, how important it is, net neutrality is literally the basis of the new…free…society. So if you don’t support it, I am willing to lay down my li- (recording ends).”
Katko’s office reported the message to the U.S. Capitol Police, who, with the help of the FBI, were able to trace the phone number back to Angelo. The defendant told investigators that he “made a call,” according to the Syracuse Post Standard, but that he wasn’t sure who he called. Angelo also admitted to being worried about the federal government’s move to remove net neutrality regulations, which currently prohibit internet providers from blocking or throttling access to websites.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who has been championing for the dissolution of the Obama-era open internet protections, condemned the threats against Katko and his family. Pai himself has been the subject of racist, threatening comments related to his efforts to undo network neutrality.
The FCC is slated to vote on Dec. 14 on Pai’s proposal to lift prohibitions on internet providers charging websites fees to reach users, which could dramatically alter the architecture of the open internet and make some websites easier to load than others. With a majority Republican FCC, the Pai’s proposal is expected to pass, and internet providers may be able to start to throttle content by the end of January 2018.
Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.