NEW YORK – A Pennsylvania man who had pled guilty to one count of making interstate communications with a threat to injure against U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) last October was sentenced to 20 months in a federal prison on Monday.
Joshua Hall, 22, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, according to Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, did on or about August 29, 2022, placed a series of telephone calls from in or around Yonkers, New York, to the Castro Valley, California office of U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell.
During those telephone calls, Hall conveyed threats to kill the Congressman to at least three different members of the Congressman’s staff (“Staff Member-1,” “Staff Member-2,” and “Staff Member-3”).
In a tweet released by the Congressman on Tuesday, August 30, Swalwell describes the threat that was forwarded to him by his district office. In the accompanying tweeted photo of the incident report, the caller declares that he is a “gay” man who “doesn’t take it up the ass but gives it” and dropped the homophobic epithet ‘fags’ along with peppering the call with F-bombs.
The caller also issued death threats claiming to be in possession of an AR-15 assault rifle and claiming he would travel to the district office to make good on his threats to kill the Congressman.
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) August 30, 2022
Hall had pled guilty before United States District Judge Gregory H. Woods on Friday, October 28, 2022. At the time the U.S. Attorney said: ” “Joshua Hall made terrifying threats to the staff of a United States Congressman whom he disliked rather than attempting to effect change through any of the freedoms of expression that all Americans enjoy. These threats of violence endanger our public officials and thwart common decency, which is why this Office will continue to prosecute crimes like those committed by Joshua Hall.”
Law and Crime reported that Hall faced a statutory maximum of five years on the threat charge and up to 20 years on the wire fraud charge. The sentence from U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods, an Obama appointee, was less than the 27 months prosecutors had requested, based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Range of 27 to 33 months.
Hall’s lawyers had requested a sentence of six months followed by supervised release that included at least six months of inpatient treatment, despite having received such treatment in the past and fleeing from at least one such program, according to the government’s sentencing memo.
Rep. Swalwell has been a leading voice for progressive causes in the House, taking stands on gun control, LGBTQ+ rights & equality and most recently on women’s reproductive rights and access to abortion, all deeply offensive to many in far right circles, particularly those labeled ‘MAGA Republicans’ by President Joe Biden.
Swalwell is an influential Democratic member of three powerful congressional committees; House Committee on the Judiciary, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and House Committee on Homeland Security.
In his victim impact statement, the Congressman said:
“Everyone in the chain of this threat was terrified. And everyone affected deserves the justice of the caller, HALL, receiving a sentence no less than the maximum,” he then noted that Hall’s threats came at a particularly politically volatile time:
“Hall threatened the life of an elected federal representative during an era that his fragile country was experiencing acts of political violence,” the statement said. “Mr. Hall sought to use a terrorizing threat to intimidate an elected leader he disagreed with. Hall’s threats to me and my colleagues were fuel thrown on an already raging fire in America and should be viewed in that context as the Court decides the appropriate sentence.”
Swalwell said that Hall’s threats forced his wife, their three young children and himself to change the way they live, and were felt deeply among his staffers.
“[W]hile I have the luxury of working in a somewhat secure building, my family and I do not live in a secure home,” the statement said. “This threat changed the habits of my family. We are more careful about having our kids in our front yard. I have to use hard-earned campaign funds to pay for a security detail when I travel out of state. These threats change daily habits and make life less comfortable and more worrisome.”
“But even worse, I was not the first person to receive Hall’s threat,” the statement continued. “An intern heard it first. And it doesn’t take many hops in logic for the intern to conclude that she and her colleagues are also in danger. We work in a public building. The interns sit at the desk closest to the front door of our office. If an armed intruder brought harm to our office, it’s likely the intern would suffer death first.”
“Mr. Hall is not worthy of mercy for the terror he brought to me, my family, and my staff,” the final sentence of the statement read. “Mr. Hall should receive the maximum sentence.”