By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California man who pleaded guilty to threatening to kill U.S. Representative Jim McDermott of Washington state was sentenced to eight months in prison on Friday by a federal judge.
Charles Turner Habermann, 33, was also fined more than $54,000 and ordered to serve three years of supervised release following his incarceration.
Habermann pleaded guilty in May to a charge of threatening a federal official as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
"Violence and threats of violence are meant to silence debate. They have no place in our political discourse," U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said in a statement following Habermann's sentencing.
"Regardless of what positions they take on the issues, public officials and the people who work for them should not have to fear that they are putting their lives in danger simply by going to work and doing their jobs," Durkan said.
Prosecutors say Habermann left a pair of threatening, expletive-laced messages for McDermott, a Democrat, in December 2010.
At the time McDermott was taking a stand against the extension of tax cuts first signed into law by former President George W. Bush, which the congressman opposed because he felt they mainly benefited the wealthy.
According to the plea agreement, Habermann threatened to kill McDermott in one of the calls, and in the second he said he would hire someone to put him "in the trash."
A two-year tax cut extension ultimately was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.
Habermann, of Palm Springs, was taken into custody four days after U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot and critically wounded in a mass shooting outside a Tucson supermarket.
Habermann was not accused of ties to the Tucson shooting, but his arrest came a time of heightened concern over threats against politicians.
Prosecutors said that U.S. District Judge James Robart intended that $29,590 of the fine he leveled against Habermann be used to cover the cost of his incarceration.