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A threat against Patty Murray

This is the sort of story that muddles the effort by tea party activists -- who've been doing just fine with nonviolent protests, thank you very much -- to push back against the "extremism" narrative. Charles Alan Wilson, 64, has been arrested after making explicit death threats against Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who's up for reelection this year.

The full information from the U.S. attorney's office in western Washington is below the jump.

CHARLES ALAN WILSON, 64, of Selah, Washington, was arrested this morning and charged by criminal complaint with threatening a federal official. WILSON was arrested by the FBI and local law enforcement at his home in Selah, near Yakima, Washington. WILSON became the subject of a federal investigation after a series of threatening phone calls to the office of Washington's U.S. Senator Patty Murray. WILSON will make his initial appearance in federal court in Yakima today, and a future hearing date will be scheduled for Seattle.

"Free speech is the cornerstone of our democratic process, and we are a country of vigorous debate," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg. "However, threats of violence have no place in that debate. The threats here crossed the line, and violate the law."

According to the criminal complaint, between March 22 and April 4, 2010, WILSON called Senator Patty Murray's office on multiple occasions leaving expletive laden threatening messages. WILSON stated that Senator Murray "had a target on her back." WILSON stated, "I want to (expletive) kill you." WILSON discussed assisting others in an attempt to kill the senator. WILSON's threats were in response to the passage of the Health Care Reform Act.

WILSON allegedly made the calls from a telephone line with a 'blocked' phone number. However, federally subpoenaed telephone records revealed the calls came from his home phone line. FBI agents were able to further confirm WILSON was the caller. WILSON told undercover FBI agents that he regularly carries a firearm with a concealed weapons permit. He also stated that he was extremely angry about the passage of the health care reform legislation.

Threatening a federal official is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A criminal complaint contains allegations that have not yet been proven in court. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until the charges have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The case is being investigated by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.

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By David Weigel  |  April 6, 2010; 3:23 PM ET
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