Image: Patty Murray
John Froschauer  /  AP
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., supported the health care overhaul bill signed into law last month.
By Pete Williams Justice correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/6/2010 5:22:12 PM ET 2010-04-06T21:22:12

Federal prosecutors have charged a Washington state man, Charles Alan Wilson, with repeatedly making threatening calls to Sen. Patty Murray's Seattle office, threatening to kill her because of her support for the health care bill.

FBI agents say they arrested Wilson after getting telephone records and calling him to confirm that his voice matched the one left on voicemail in Sen. Murray's office.

The investigation began in late March, after the health care bill was passed, when a staff member notified the FBI that a man who'd been calling the Seattle office for months, leaving messages after hours, had begun making overt threats to kill her.

In one message, according to court documents, he said, "I hope you realize, there's a target on your back now. There are many people out there who want you dead. ... Kill the ----ing senator. I'll donate the lead." In another, he describes himself as "a senior citizen on Social Security and Medicare" and says, "I want to thank you so much, very, very much, for signing my death warrant."

FBI agents checked the office phone records against the times the voicemails were received, leading to Wilson's number in Selah, Washington. As an additional check, an agent posing as a volunteer from a fictitious group opposed to the bill, Patients United Now, called Wilson on April 1 and talked to him for 14 minutes. He said he "hated" the new law and that he had repeatedly called Sen. Murray's office to complain, referring to her with a phrase, "sneaker shoes Murray," also often used on the voicemails.

The FBI also determined that Wilson, 64, has a handgun registered to him and a valid concealed weapons permit.

He has been charged with threatening a federal official, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.

In a statement Tuesday, Murray said that her office first notified the Capitol Police Department about the calls and was then instructed to alert local FBI authorities. "As this is an ongoing FBI investigation, Senator Murray or her office will not make any additional comments," the statement said.

Several lawmakers have reported receiving threatening telephone calls in the wake of the legislation's passage. At least four offices of Democratic lawmakers were vandalized, and some officials were granted access to increased security as a result of the threats.

Both Republicans and Democrats have been the targets of violent threats. A man who had used a Web video to announce his intention to kill Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., was arrested on March 29. Cantor, a top House Republican leader, opposed the health care bill.

Msnbc.com's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.

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