A West Virginia man who admitted to threatening top U.S. health officials was sentenced on Aug. 4 to over three years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis, an Obama appointee, handed down the sentence to Thomas Patrick Connally Jr. in federal court in Maryland.
Connally pleaded guilty to sending emails to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in 2020 and 2021 that contained threats, including one that said Fauci and his relatives would be “dragged into the street, beaten to death, and set on fire.” One had a subject line stating, “Cutting your scalp off and sewing it onto a rat.”
Connally on April 24, 2021, told Dr. Francis Collins, then-head of the National Institutes of Health, that he would assault or even kill Collins and the doctor’s family if the director did not stop endorsing mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
Connally admitted that he sent the messages to Fauci and Collins to try to intimidate them.
According to the plea agreement, the man also sent threatening missives to Rachel Levine, the secretary of health for Pennsylvania in 2020, a public health official in Massachusetts, and a religious leader. Levine later joined the federal government as the assistant secretary for health for the Department of Health and Human Services in the Biden administration.
Connally faced up to 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors asked for 46 months behind bars, describing Connally as carrying out “a campaign of terror, sending emails containing threats of serious bodily injury and death to his five victims.”
“Smart and technologically sophisticated, the Defendant intended to heighten the terror he sought to instill by using a foreign encrypted email provider. Using this provider also allowed the Defendant to hide his identity and continue to send his threatening emails unabated,” they added.
When the initial threats didn’t seem to have an effect, Connally researched the names of relatives of the officials and included the names in future emails, prosecutors noted.
Investigators ultimately linked the encrypted account with Connally and served a search warrant on his rental residence in Snowshoe, West Virginia. He was arrested in the summer of 2021.
Elli Marranzini, a public defender representing the defendant, argued for less time, saying Connally experienced stress in connection with his mother being isolated in a nursing home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Xinis decided on 37 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release.
Marranzini did not respond to a request for comment.
“Everyone has the right to disagree, but you do not have the right to threaten a federal official’s life,” Erek Barron, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, said in a statement.