CASPER, Wyo. — A Laramie, Wyo. man pleaded not guilty in federal court Tuesday to making phone calls in January threatening to kill various elected officials, including Wyoming’s two senators.
According to the indictment, Christopher Kent Podlesnik left eight voicemails on Jan. 28 for four state and federal lawmakers, threatening to kill or shoot them. He appeared for his arraignment in U.S. District Court Tuesday by video conference.
Podlesnik reportedly left three voicemails for Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis, two for Sen. John Barrasso, two for Wyoming state Sen. Anthony Bouchard and one for Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who was holding a rally that day at the Wyoming Capitol to denounce Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney’s impeachment vote.
Podlesnik faces seven felony charges in federal court for the threats, classified by U.S. law as “threats in interstate commerce.” Each charge can carry a prison sentence of up to five years and as much as a $250,000 fine — meaning if convicted of all, Podlesnik could be looking at a maximum of $1.75M in fines and up to 35 years behind bars.
His case is now set to be heard on June 1 in Casper in front of federal judge Scott Skavdahl. Until then, he’ll be on house arrest in Laramie and is prohibited from traveling outside the state or to Natrona and Laramie counties. His bond is set at $10,000.
Lummis and Barrasso declined to comment on the case. Bouchard and Gaetz could not be reached for comment as of Tuesday afternoon.
In calls to Lummis’ office, Podlesnik allegedly left voicemails saying he was going to “kill” the senator and “shoot (her) in the (expletive) head.” Another threatened that she was “going to (expletive) get shot in the (expletive) back of the head.”
According to the indictment, Podlesnik said in voicemails to Barrasso’s office that he would “see that Matt Gaetz gets killed when he (expletive) gets here,” presumably referencing Gaetz’s visit to Cheyenne that day.
“You let Gaetz step into the state of Wyoming,” one of Podlesnik’s voicemails to Barrasso said according to court documents, “not only is he going to be dead, you’re going to be dead.”
Voicemails left at Bouchard’s number have Podlesnik telling the state senator that he is a “(expletive) traitor” who deserves “to be shot,” and saying he “will take (Bouchard) (expletive) down.”
Bouchard has been one of the most vocal critics of Cheney in the Wyoming Legislature, announcing his bid to run for her seat following her vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 riots. Gaetz’s visit later that month also capitalized on growing anti-Cheney sentiment among the Wyoming GOP following that vote.
“I’m not going to (expletive) ask you why you (expletive) think you should be killed, I’m just going to (expletive) put two in your head,” Podlesnik allegedly said in a voicemail left for Gaetz.
Judge Mark L. Carman said Tuesday that the incident was likely related to alcohol abuse.
According to an honor roll list released by the University of Wyoming in February 2020, Podlesnik was enrolled at the university as recently as the fall semester in 2019.
A release from the Department of Justice said Podlesnik made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court by video Friday. He was reportedly arrested on Thursday, and was held in custody in Wheatland until Tuesday’s arraignment.
“As Americans, we cherish the freedoms secured by our Bill of Rights, including our freedom of speech,” acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray said in the release. “However, true threats of violence are not protected by the Constitution. Working with the FBI and other partners, the United States Attorney’s Office will continue to investigate such threats and seek charges in appropriate cases.”