Thanks to his stupidity, some fortunate timing, the siren call of Glenn Beck, and an FBI agent posing as a Tea Partier, Charles Alan Wilson, the 64-year-old Selah man who threatened to kill Sen. Patty Murray, has instead given a likely boost to the incumbent's once-flagging campaign. "You're dead fucking meat, Murray! You're dead fucking meat! Baby killer, Murray," Wilson said in one of the nicer phone messages he began leaving on Murray's Seattle office recording machine in late March.
"Just remember that as you are politicking for your reelection - it only takes one piece of lead. . . . Kill the fucking senator! Kill the fucking senator! I'll donate the lead," he said in one voice mail. And in another: "I hope somebody kills you, and I hope somebody kills [Obama]. Yes, die, dead. You're signing my death warrant, so I want to sign yours, fucking bitch."
The FBI ultimately tracked the calls to Wilson's home in the politically conservative farmlands of Yakima County. An agent, Corey Cote, called Wilson posing as a member of a group backed by Americans For Prosperity, a right-wing organization opposed to health-care reform. (AlterNet calls AFP "by far the slickest of the astroturf groups organizing disgruntled right-wingers" with funding from the Koch brothers, Richard Mellon Scaife and other Tea Partiers).
Cote talked Wilson into letting him record the phone call during which Wilson, thinking he was talking to a fellow wingnut, bragged he was armed and was calling Murray's office daily. "I will not blink" when it comes to shooting Murray, he said. "It's not a threat, it's a guarantee...." He was also calling Sen. Maria Cantwell's office as well, he said. To him, Murry and Cantwell were the "Pike Street whores."
Wilson was arrested in April, pleaded guilty in June, and, in July, U.S. Judge John Coughenour formally accepted the plea. In August, the Seattle federal court set sentencing for October 22. That was last Friday, when Wilson's one-year-and-a-day sentence for threatening the life of Senator Murray made headlines across the state ten days before the general election.
A contrite Wilson confessed to his foolish anger, but he'd clearly been out of control. "We are going to fuck you up," he said in one message to Murray. "We are going to fuck you up as bad as we can. Yes, the independents. The real people of this country, not you spineless fucking socialists."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg said the threats were serious enough that the FBI moved on an "emergency basis" to catch the caller. Wilson of course had a right to his views, Greenberg said, but "How he chose to express those views was unlawful and, in fact, threatened to undermine the very democratic system he claimed to be 'protecting.'" The system, as a result, will be less democratic for Wilson: The court stripped him of his gun rights, and as part of a three-year probation after his prison release, his home can be searched at any time, and his tax and financial records reviewed by a probation officer.
Wilson's public defender, Paula Deutsche, filed a 46-page sentencing memorandum that tried to explain Wilson's rage. He was an out-of-work single father of three in poor health and had lived his life on his Selah spread. Friends and neighbors saw Charlie Wilson, carpenter and handyman, as a kind, hard-working guy who brought over fresh berries and apples, "the perfect neighbor...the guy wouldn't hurt anyone." It wasn't the Charlie they knew.
Yet, there's the politics behind it all, said one understanding friend of 40 years. "I don't blame Charlie for voicing his feelings about the health care plan," the friend said in a letter to the court. "I think it was a mental problem that made him say some of things. I don't trust the people that are in charge either."
A cousin suspected that Charlie, who became housebound due to his poor health, spent too much time watching TV. Another friend agreed. "His brother got him a computer and he was able to stay connected with family. And he watched television and found Glenn Beck." The friend said he, too, found Beck, a Washington native son, about the same time.
"I understand how [Charlie's] fears were grown and fostered by Mr. Beck's persuasive personality. The same thing happened to me but I went in a different direction with what I was seeing. Rather than blame politicians for the current issues, I simply got prepared for what Glenn said was coming.
"I slowly filled our pantry as Glenn fed fear into me. I did not miss watching his show and could not understand why the rest of the world didn't get it - Glenn became a pariah to me. But I was finally able to step away and realize the error of my ways. The media lost its grasp on me. But it still held very tightly to Charlie."