Federal court upholds Washington state’s ban on conversion therapy

NEW YORK — A Pennsylvania man who pleaded guilty to one count of making interstate communications with a threat of injury against U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) last October was sentenced to 20 months in a federal prison on Monday.

Joshua Hall, 22, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, made a series of calls from or around Yonkers, New York, to the office on or about August 29, 2022, according to Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. in Castro Valley, California from U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell.

During those calls, Hall delivered threats to kill the congressman to at least three different members of the congressman’s staff (“Staff-1”, “Staff-2”, and “Staff-3”).

In a tweet released by the congressman on Tuesday, Aug. 30, Swalwell describes the threat forwarded to him by his district office. In the incident report’s accompanying tweeted photo, the caller declares himself to be a “gay” man who “don’t give a shit but gives it” and dropped the homophobic epithet “fags” along with peppering the call with F bombs.

The caller also made death threats and claimed to be in possession of an AR-15 assault rifle and claimed he would travel to the county office to make good on his threats to kill the congressman.

Hall had pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods on Friday, October 28, 2022. to effect change through one of the freedoms of expression enjoyed by all Americans. These threats of violence endanger our government officials and thwart good decency, which is why this agency will continue to prosecute crimes such as those committed by Joshua Hall.

Law and Crime reported that Hall received a statutory maximum of five years on the threat charge and up to 20 years on the fraud charge. The sentence of 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 called for a six-month prison sentence followed by a supervised release, including at least six months of inpatient treatment, despite having received such treatment in the past and being on the run for at least one of these programs, according to the government’s condemnation memo.

Representative Swalwell has been a leading voice for progressive causes in the House, taking positions on gun control, LGBTQ+ rights and equality and more recently on women’s reproductive rights and access to abortion, all deeply offensive to many in the far right, with 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 all those affected deserve the justice of the caller, HALL, who will receive a sentence not less than the maximum,” he went on to note that Hall’s threats came at a politically volatile time:

“Hall threatened the life of an elected federal representative at a time when his fragile country was experiencing acts of political violence,” the statement said. Mr. Hall attempted to use a terrorist threat to intimidate an elected leader with whom he disagreed. Hall’s threats to me and my colleagues were fuel thrown on an already raging fire in America and must be seen in that context when the Court determines the appropriate penalty.

Swalwell said Hall’s threats forced his wife, their three young children and himself to change their way of life, and it was deeply felt among his staffers.

“[W]While I have the luxury of working in a somewhat secure building, my family and I do not live in a safe home,” the statement said. “This threat changed my family’s habits. 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 everyday habits and make life less comfortable and more worrying.”

“But even worse, I was not the first person to receive the threat from Hall,” the statement continued. “An intern heard it first. And it doesn’t take much 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 causes damage to our office, chances are the intern will be the first to die.”

“Mr. Hall deserves no mercy for the terror he has inflicted on me, my family and my staff,” the final sentence of the statement read. Hall should get the maximum sentence.”

Federal court upholds Washington state’s ban on conversion therapy

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