According to publicly available documents filed in federal court, a cousin of Charles Wilson -- a Washington man sentenced to prison last week for repeatedly threatening to kill Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) after she voted in favor of health care reform legislation -- said Wilson's "fears were grown and fostered by [Glenn] Beck's persuasive personality."
Wilson's cousin's comments were made in a letter -- one of 25 submitted by Wilson's public defender in which Wilson's friends and family attested to his character. In a sentencing memo, Wilson's attorney requested leniency, noting "[t]he period of time in which he committed the offense conduct is totally aberrant when one looks at how Mr. Wilson has lived the rest of his life."
Wilson's cousin, who is related to him through marriage, wrote in a September 17 letter:
What happened later with Charlie is something I think I can understand. He became basically housebound due to illness and his small world became even smaller. His brother got him a computer and he was able to stay connected with family. And he watched television and found Glenn Beck... I found Glenn Beck about the same time Charlie did. I understand how his 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 grip on me. But it still held very tightly to Charlie.
While his actions were undeniably wrong and his choices were terrible, in part they were the actions of others played out by a very gullible Charlie. He was under the spell that Glenn Beck cast, aided by the turbulent times in our economy. I don't believe that Charlie even had the ability to actually carry out his threats.
A letter from another relative said:
Charlie was never a man to be interested in politics until his health kept him home more and he got his first computer. His world was small and he seemed to spend most of his time at home watching television and on his computer. I truly believe that the recent events surrounding universal health care and its ramifications literally scared him beyond comprehension. He has had many surgeries in the past and has battled some major health issues. With his world being so small, he lost faith and sight of reality. I believe he is even mildly agoraphobic -- in the past ten years he rarely left the Yakima valley and I honestly don't think he could have driven very far.
As long as I have known Charlie I have never known him to be violent or threatening. I have never witnessed any overt anger issues nor have I seen him shout or strike anyone or anything. He has always been a person to help others not harm them.
Wilson, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison on October 22. On October 25, the Seattle Weekly noted Wilson's cousin's comments about Beck.
In court documents, federal prosecutors pointed to several voicemail messages Wilson left for Sen. Murray that raised "serious concerns," including:
"Just remember that as you are politicing for your reelection. It only takes one piece of lead. . . . Kill the fucking Senator! Kill the fucking Senator! I'll donate the lead. . . . Now that you've passed your health-care bill, let the violence begin. Let the violence begin."
"By your attempts to overtake this country with socialism, somebody's gonna get to you one way or another and blow your fucking brains out, and I hope it does happen. If I have the chance, I would do it."
"Kill the fucking Senator! Hang the fucking Senator! I hope somebody puts a fucking bullet between your fucking eyes. Far left liberal socialist democratic bitch. You mother-fucker. You sold the fucking people of the country out for socialism. I hope somebody fucking erasers your fucking life. Yes, I hope somebody assassinates you, you fucking bitch."
"We are going to fuck you up. 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. You better watch your fucking back, baby, because there's people gonna come after you with fucking both fucking barrels, bitch."
According to a sentencing memo submitted by federal prosecutors, the government "views Wilson's offense as an extremely serious one. ... This sort of conduct - especially in the aggregate - has a corrosive effect on our representative democracy." From the memo:
The government views Wilson's offense as an extremely serious one. The very survival of our representative democracy rests on the ability of our elected officials to execute the duties of their offices, and to run for election, without fearing the sort of reprisal - death and acts of violence - threatened by the defendant in this case. This sort of conduct - especially in the aggregate - has a corrosive effect on our representative democracy. Although it now appears that Mr. Wilson had no intention of carrying out his threats, this was not known to Senator Murray's office or the FBI while his offense conduct was ongoing.
The government submits that it is important for this Court's sentence to deliver a strong message in order to ensure respect for the law and to provide adequate deterrence against this sort of behavior in the future. Among the many virtues of our democratic system is the fact that American citizens are provided with numerous vehicles to appropriately express their political views - including opposition to certain laws or the votes cast by elected officials. Mr. Wilson was obviously entitled to his views in opposition to the Healthcare Reform Act. 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 Court's sentence must be forceful enough to deter others who, out of anger or fear, may be inclined to make similar threats against elected officials. We respectfully submit that a sentence of one year in prison is necessary to accomplish the essential goals of ensuring adequate deterrence and respect for the law - a shorter sentence will not send the same deterrent message.