BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A western New York man convicted of leaving menacing phone messages for two prominent Republican members of Congress was sentenced to five years in prison, prosecutors said Thursday.
Bayon last year left voicemails that authorities said crossed the line into threats against Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington.
“Today’s sentence should send a strong message to those who seek to express their political views by making threats to public officials,” U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. said in a release Thursday.
Bayon, 64, has admitted leaving the messages but said he sought only to communicate outrage about the Trump administration’s immigration and family separation policies.
“Notwithstanding the language that he used in those messages, he maintains that they were not intended to be threats but that he chose provocative language just to draw attention to the issue of children being separated at the border,” lawyer Patrick Brown said Thursday. He has been appointed to assist Bayon, who has been representing himself.
Bayon plans to appeal, according to a notice filed Thursday.
The voicemails left for the two politicians in June 2018 included threats to “feed them lead” and warned that “you will pay,” prosecutors said.
"You are taking ours. We are taking yours," the messages said, according to prosecutors.
Authorities said they found a loaded rifle, 150 rounds of rifle ammunition and books on bomb-making in Bayon’s home and a storage garage. He lives in Grand Island, New York. between Niagara Falls and Buffalo.
The messages arrived a year after Scalise, now the No. 2 House GOP leader, was gravely wounded when a gunman attacked a Republican practice for a congressional baseball game. Scalise was hospitalized for more than a month after suffering shattered bones and internal organ damage; doctors said he had nearly died.
Capitol Police and other officers killed the gunman, who had nursed grievances against Republican President Donald Trump and his party.
McMorris Rodgers was also in the Republican House leadership at the time of Bayon’s voicemails.
Scalise spokeswoman Lauren Fine said Thursday that the congressman is grateful to law enforcement and the courts “for ensuring that justice was served.”
“There’s no place for violence or threats in our political discourse, and today’s sentencing affirmed that,” Fine said.
A message was sent Thursday to a spokesman for McMorris Rodgers.
A federal jury in Buffalo convicted Bayon in August of retaliating against a public official and making interstate threats.