What are the Consequences of Threatening a Federal Judge?

April 9, 2024 Criminal Defense

State and Federal judges are considered highly regarded officials in the realm of criminal justice. Due to the deciding factors a judge has in a criminal case, there are instances where a defendant may attempt to retaliate in the form of a written threat.

It’s very important to stress that threatening any State or Federal official can result in additional penalties. Even if you are already serving a sentence for a separate offense, claiming to do harm to an official member can result in new criminal charges and penalties against you.

A Florida inmate has recently been indicted for allegedly writing threats to have a federal judge killed. In this page, we will provide the case details along with the major differences between state and federal charges for retaliation against officials.

State vs Federal Charges

It is important to point out the differences between being charged with a criminal offense by the State or by the Federal government.

Crimes charged by the State are for violations of Florida laws. These offenses are prosecuted in a state court in Florida and are managed by State representatives. On the other hand, Federal crimes are considered violations of the laws set out by the federal government or crimes that have a federal interest. Offenses that take place on federal land or involve interstate commerce are examples of crimes that would have federal interest.

Whereas state crimes are typically investigated by local law enforcement agencies or county sheriffs, federal crimes are conducted by large federal agencies such as the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), or Department of Homeland Security. However, there are certain offences that can be prosecuted by both State and Federal entities. Examples include drug crimes like drug trafficking, bank robbery, or kidnapping.

Additionally, convictions for federal crimes often result in longer and more severe sentencing. There are often mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for federal crimes, as well.

While Pumphrey Law Firm focuses on crimes prosecuted by the State in Florida, it is important for individuals to be made aware of the potential penalties they may face for breaking a federal law.

Federal Penalties for Retaliation Against Federal Official

The penalties for influencing, impeding, or retaliating against a federal official is outlined under 18 U.S.C § 115:

Any person who threatens to assault, kidnap, or murder a United States official, a United States judge, a federal law enforcement officer, or another federal official with the intent to impede, intimidate, or interfere with such judge or officer while engaged in their official duties can be punished as follows:

  • If the incident resulted in simple assault – Term of imprisonment in a federal prison for up to one year;
  • If the incident resulted in physical contact with the victim or with the intent to commit another felony – Term of imprisonment in federal prison for up to 10 years;
  • If the incident resulted in assault that led to bodily injury – Term of imprisonment in a federal prison for up to 20 years; and
  • If the incident resulted in assault that led to serious bodily injury – Term of imprisonment in a federal prison for up to 30 years.

These penalties also apply for a person who assaults, kidnaps, or murders, or attempts to, conspires to, or threatens to harm or kill a member of the immediate family of a U.S. official, judge, or law enforcement officer.

You can read the full extent of the federal provisions here.

Example Case

A Florida inmate serving a second prison sentence could face additional time in federal prison due to allegations of a new criminal offense. According to the press release by the Department of Justice, Marcus Pratt has been indicted for allegations of mailing threatening letters to a federal charge.

The indictment claims that Pratt sent three letters to a specific U.S. District Judge during 2023. The first letter, dated August 2, 2023, was addressed to the Miami federal courthouse, and threatened that his “associates” would kill the judge. The second letter was sent a month later in September, which threatened that the same associates would kill the specific judge and “whoever was at his house when they got there.”

The third and final letter was dated from October 10, 2023, and claimed that the defendant’s associates would kill the judge “very soon.” The report indicated that Pratt signed all three letters, and that the context of the threatening messages was due to the judge’s performance of their official duties and the defendant’s intention to retaliate against the judge.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Marshal Service. Attorney Roger B. Handberg announced the grand jury’s indictment charges against Pratt:

  • Three (3) counts of mailing threatening communications; and
  • Three (3) counts of influencing, impeding, or retaliating against a federal judge.

You can find the full press release here. To review the State penalties for mailing threats, refer to our page here.

Contact Pumphrey Law Firm

Accusations of written threats can lead to extensive penalties from both Florida and federal entities. If you or someone you care for has been arrested for threatening an official in Florida, consider hiring legal representation. A defense attorney can review the surrounding facts of your case and determine what defense strategies may be applicable to fight off a conviction.

Contact the defense team with Pumphrey Law Firm to get started on your case today. Our office provides free consultations when you call us at (850) 681-7777 or fill out our online form.

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