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An Oklahoma man pleaded guilty Wednesday to stalking and threatening a U.S. representative from his state.
Keith Eisenberger, 39, of Bartlesville, Okla., pleaded guilty to cyberstalking and threatening to kidnap and assault Rep. Kevin Hearn, Oklahoma, and threatening to kidnap and assault his wife, the Justice Department said.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate threats of violence online aimed at intimidating elected officials or members of our community. Keith Eisenberger now understands that there are legal consequences for committing these criminal acts,” said US Attorney Clint Johnson. press release on Wednesday.
Hearn represents Oklahoma’s first congressional district.
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In a statement, Oklahoma City FBI Special Agent Edward J. Gray clarified that the First Amendment does not protect individuals who threaten violence.
“While the First Amendment gives us the right to express our own opinions, it does not protect those who cross the line of violent criminal threats,” Gray said. “The FBI will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to ensure that elected officials can safely carry out their duties.”
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According to the agreement, Eisenberger admitted to sending “dangerous messages” between Nov. 27, 2018, and May 11, 2022, including a message that said he was going to kidnap Hearn and his wife, the Justice Department said.
Eisenberger now faces up to 25 years in prison.
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The deal comes amid a years-long investigation into Eisenberger, who frequently attended political events in his state to meet with lawmakers. The unsolicited admiration then quickly escalated into harassment, the Justice Department said.
After Hearn won the 2018 general election and was sworn in in January 2019, Eisenberger traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with the lawmaker.
Once there, he demanded Hearn’s resignation. During the incident, Eisenberger reportedly told Capitol Police that he had bought a one-way ticket and would not leave until Hearn vacated his post.
In 2020, Eisenberger took to social media to call for “federal punishment” for Hearn. He also said Hearne faces resignation, death or expulsion. In another message that same year, he threatened to attack a Republican lawmaker.
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The Justice Department also said Eisenberger continued to harass her in 2021 in a social media post where he threatened to kidnap Hearn and his wife, Tammy Hearn.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI, and the case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Christopher J. Nasar.