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Texas man pleads guilty to sending violent threats to Maryland doctor, advocate of COVID-19 vaccine

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Scott Eli Harris, 51, of Aubrey, Texas, pleaded guilty this week in federal court to one count of willfully transmitting in interstate commerce a threat to injure a Maryland doctor who had been a vocal proponent of the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to documents and statements made in connection with the plea hearing, Harris sent a threatening message from his cellular phone to the doctor. The message from Harris included violent and explicit threats, such as, “Never going to take your wonder drug. My 12 gauge promises I won’t,” and “I’m a 5th generation U.S. Army veteran and a sniper… I can’t wait for the shooting to start.” The message also referenced the doctor’s Asian-American race and national origin.

“During the pandemic, we have seen a disturbing increase in threats of violence targeting doctors and public health advocates,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Public health officials and doctors deserve our respect for their tireless efforts during the ongoing pandemic, and individuals who seek to use threats of violence to intimidate and silence them will be held accountable.”

“Threats and intimidation should not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland. “This office and our law enforcement partners will continue to investigate and prosecute such conduct.”

“These threats are taken very seriously and the response to them is an example of the FBI’s dedication to keeping our community safe,” said Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “No one should live in fear for doing their job. Posting a threat online, through mail or over the phone is a crime and comes with consequences, whether or not the person intended to carry out the threat.”

Harris faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.  

This case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney P. Michael Cunningham of the District of Maryland and Trial Attorney Katherine G. DeVar of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.

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