TOPEKA, Kan. — A federal court jury convicted a Kansas man who insisted that a death threat he made against U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner was a message from God, amid what authorities have said is a sharp rise in threats against members of Congress and their families.
Jurors found Chase Neill, 32, of Lawrence, guilty of a single count of threatening a U.S. government official. The presiding judge instructed jurors that to find Neill guilty, they had to conclude that a reasonable person would find that he had made a true threat and intended to either intimidate LaTurner or interfere with his work as a Republican congressman representing eastern Kansas.
Neill acted as his own attorney and cross-examined LaTurner on the witness stand Wednesday. Neill testified Thursday that he was a messenger from God and he passed along a message from God threatening LaTurner for ignoring concerns about sorcery, wizards, extraterrestrials and a war for people’s souls.
Federal prosecutors said Neill fixated on LaTurner before leaving an after-hours voicemail June 5 with the congressman’s Topeka office that included, “I will kill you.” LaTurner testified that he worried about his family’s and staff’s safety and beefed up security at his home and Topeka office.
Neill admitted in court that he left the June 5 voicemail and others with more death threats the next day. But he said he was conveying a message from God that LaTurner and other officials faced death by an act of God, such as a tornado or hurricane, for attacking God’s creation.
“This is not me saying, ‘I’m going to chase you down with a knife,’ or something like that,” Neill said in his closing argument.
His mother, fighting back tears, told reporters upon leaving the courtroom, “He never raised a hand on anybody.”
Threats against members of Congress have increased since the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In October, an intruder severely beat former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer in their San Francisco home.