A Detroit man was convicted on a misdemeanor charge after making a threatening call to the Detroit Police Department’s 911 call center. James Toepler, 60, pleaded no contest to one count of malicious use of telecommunications services for threatening to kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and other elected officials.
Judge E. Lynise Bryant of the 36th District Court sentenced Toepler to a specialized mental health treatment court. The motive behind the threats was not provided by Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office.
Nessel emphasized that threats against public officials are not protected speech but rather attempts to terrorize and intimidate. She stated that her office’s Hate Crimes and Domestic Terrorism Unit will continue to prosecute such threats.
Toepler is not the only individual to be charged with threatening Michigan Democrats. Last year, multiple men were convicted of plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. In February 2021, two Michigan men were accused of threatening Democrats over the presidential election results. In March 2021, a 21-year-old man was charged with threatening to kill Whitmer, President Joe Biden, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Additionally, an Ohio woman was charged with leaving threatening voicemails for two state representatives. U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell’s office was also vandalized and received a threatening voicemail.
The incidents of threats and violence have increased in recent years, with armed protesters storming the state Capitol in Lansing in April 2020. In November 2022, a man was charged with making threats against a congressman and FBI Director Christopher Wray. In February and March 2023, individuals were charged with threatening Jewish government officials, including Attorney General Dana Nessel, unlawfully owning guns, and storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
These incidents highlight the ongoing issue of threats against public officials and the importance of taking them seriously to ensure the safety and security of elected representatives.