Two men have been charged with issuing death threats laced with profanity and anti-LGBTQ slurs against two separate members of Congress — U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) and an unnamed member of the House of Representatives from Texas.
In the Santos case, Frank Stanzione, a Florida man who describes himself as a “long-standing, active advocate for gay rights,” allegedly left a threatening message on Santos’s congressional office voicemail on January 29. In the message, he lobbed homophobic slurs at the gay Republican congressman and threatened to beat Santos with a baseball bat.
“You better watch your motherfucking back because I’m gonna bash your mother fucking f****t head in with a bat until your brains are splattered across the fucking wall,” Stanzione said in the message, according to court documents. “You lying, disgusting, disgraceful, motherfucking f****t…. piece of shit. You’re gonna get fucking murdered you goddamn lying piece of garbage. Watch your back you fat, ugly, piece of shit. You and your husband are dead.”
Santos’s office reported the message to the U.S. Capitol Police and identified Stanzione, of Boynton Beach, as the person behind the voicemail.
Once arrested on a charge of threats to do bodily harm, he allegedly told officers he was “offended by Santos” and some of the stances the Republican has taken on gay issues — which may refer to his support of “Don’t Say Gay” legislation or his employment of rhetoric calling opponents of drag bans or book bans “groomers” — and wanted to “make him feel like a piece of shit.”
Stanzione also said he felt offended by Santos and does not want him “in his [gay] community.”
Stanzione has filed a motion asking for the charges against him to be dismissed, stating that others who have committed similar acts haven’t been prosecuted for them. He also claimed that the voicemail is a form of constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment, arguing that he is being prosecuted for engaging in “constitutionally protected political hyperbole.”
“The Defendant, like all other in the United States, has the virtually unfettered right to make ‘vehement, caustic, and .. . unpleasantly sharp’ political statements,” Stanzione’s lawyers argued in the motion to dismiss the case. “The content of the Defendant’s message plainly related to matters of public import — namely, the cause of gay-rights, and the debate with those who view gay-right and cause[s] as activities of child-predatory ‘groomers.'”
If convicted of the charge against him, Stanzione could face up to five years in prison.
In the second case, the FBI arrested Michael David Fox of Las Cruces, New Mexico, for issuing threats against a U.S. congresswoman from the Houston, Texas area whom he believed was secretly a Satanic transgender pedophile, echoing some of the key talking points of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
According to the criminal complaint against him, Fox allegedly called the congresswoman’s office on May 18, and berated her for being transgender, threatening to kill her. The congresswoman’s identity has not been revealed.
“Hey [congresswoman], you’re a man. It’s official. You’re literally a tranny and a pedophile, and I’m going to put a bullet in your fucking face. You mother fucking Satanic cock-sucking son of a whore. You understand me, you fucker?”
Law enforcement traced the call’s origin, which led them to Fox.
When approached by FBI agents on May 26, Fox admitted to leaving the message and said he was not under the influence of drugs when he left it. He admitted to being an adherent of the QAnon movement, which claims that a left-wing cabal of government elites is running an intricate child trafficking network through which they sexually abuse and torture children.
Fox allegedly told arresting agents that he believed the Q movement was tasked with carrying out the “eradication” of the people deemed responsible for the world’s misery, particularly members of the LGBTQ community.
He also said that he had run the congresswoman’s skull features through “forensic analysis” and determined that she had been born male.
During that conversation, Fox allegedly “rescinded his threat against [the congresswoman] and apologized,” adding that he understood why she might have felt threatened by his phone call.
Fox has been charged with transmitting a communication threatening to kidnap or injure a person, which could earn him up to five years in jail, if convicted.
Both incidents were reported by the Court Watch newsletter, which noted that there were nearly 20 cases in which individuals sent threatening communications to elected officials over the past eight months that were not widely reported in the news media.
As a result of this lack of reporting, Court Watch claims that citizens and policymakers are “missing out on having data-driven discussions on how to address threats by way of new legislation, increased resources, or any other possible approach.”
“The number of untold stories continues to rise and the ones that do break through follow a well-worn inevitable process where one political side uses the case to prove that the other political side is violently unhinged,” Court Watch reported. “And then the sides switch spots the following week when the next person targeted for a threat is in the other party.
“If one wants to find an example of their political opponents’ supporters threatening violence, there is always an example in the criminal justice system to be found for every political persuasion under the sun.”
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!