Maryland Man Pleads Guilty in Federal Court to Threatening 2020 Democratic Candidates for President and Vice President, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and Their Supporters During the Campaign
Reed Left Threatening Letter at a Residence with Biden/Harris Signs in Yard
Baltimore, Maryland – James Dale Reed, age 42, of Frederick, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to the federal charge of threats to a major candidate for President or Vice President—specifically, making threats against then-former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris. A federal criminal complaint for the same charge was filed against Reed on October 21, 2020 and he was convicted of related state charges in Frederick County Circuit Court.
The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner and Special Agent in Charge Bo Keane of the United States Secret Service - Baltimore Field Office.
“Making threats against candidates and fellow citizens for their political beliefs undermines our democracy and will not be tolerated,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner. “This case reflects our commitment to holding accountable anyone who seeks to intimidate, harass or dissuade Americans from exercising their right to vote and to peacefully support the candidate of their choice.”
According to his guilty plea and court documents, on October 4, 2020, a letter threatening candidates for President and Vice President—specifically, then-former Vice President Joe Biden and then-Senator Kamala Harris—with physical harm and execution, was left on the doorstep of a resident in Frederick in the early morning hours. The letter also stated, “…if you are a Biden/Harris supporter you will be targeted. We have a list of homes and addresses by your election signs. We are the ones with those scary guns. We are the ones your children have nightmares about…” The resident had several signs in the yard supporting the candidates threatened in the letter. The likeness of the subject delivering the letter was captured by a door camera and was subsequently identified as Reed.
Investigators learned that Reed had firearms registered to him, including an M4/AR-15 and a 9mm pistol. On October 15, 2020, investigators contacted Reed at his residence and requested elimination palm prints and a more extensive handwriting sample. Reed consented and complied with both requests. Law enforcement then advised Reed of his Miranda rights, which he voluntarily waived. Investigators audio-recorded the waiver and all subsequent questioning. During the interview, Reed admitted that he wrote the letter and delivered it to the first house he saw that had multiple Democratic political signs because he was upset at the political situation.
Following the interview, law enforcement obtained an Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) to seize Reed’s firearms based on misdemeanor charges of voter intimidation and threats of mass violence, and a search warrant for the clothing items visible on the video surveillance. That same evening, law enforcement conducted the search of Reed’s house. The search was limited primarily to the “back room” where Reed stated his guns and military equipment were located. The “back room” that Reed referred to was full of U.S. Army paraphernalia, including many pairs of military-issue uniforms, helmets, plate carriers, and bags/packs. Two grenades without blast caps were also found. The room resembled a U.S. military outpost bunker containing a voluminous supply of maps, books, and documents related to military strategy and history. Law enforcement seized: a Smith & Wesson 9VE handgun; a JC Higgins 20-12 Gauge rifle; a .223 caliber Bushmaster XM15-E25; a Hi Point 995 handgun; and approximately eight ammunition cans with 5.56 and 9mm ammunition and AR-15 carbine magazines. In addition, a military-style “go-bag” was seized along with the jacket Reed wore when he delivered the threatening letter.
As part of his plea agreement, Reed has agreed to waive his interest in the firearms and ammunition.
Reed faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander has scheduled sentencing for Reed on July 27, 2021, at 4:00 p.m.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the U.S. Secret Service for its work in the investigation and thanked the Frederick Police Department for its assistance. Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys James G. Warwick and Joan C. Mathias, who are prosecuting the case.
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