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Amherst man who threatened members of Congress gets 33 months in federal prison

New Hampshire Union Leader - 12/2/2021

Dec. 2—A decorated Navy veteran from Amherst who pleaded guilty earlier this year to federal charges that he threatened to kill six members of Congress in late 2020 if they failed to "get behind Donald Trump" has been sentenced to more than two years in federal prison.

Ryder Winegar, 34, pleaded guilty in August to six counts of threatening members of Congress and one count of transmitting interstate threatening communications. He was sentenced Wednesday to 33 months.

According to court documents, Winegar left voicemail messages on Dec. 16 and 17, 2020, at the offices of six unidentified members of Congress in Washington. In several of the messages, Winegar identified himself by name or left his phone number, officials said. He also said he was a Navy veteran.

In one message, the voicemail said, "I got some advice for you. Here's the advice — Donald Trump is your president. If you don't get behind him, we're going to hang you until you die."

"That goes for all you aides too," Winegar allegedly said in one message. "You think, 'I'm just an aide, I'm not going to be hung.' No, no, no, no, no, no, no. You're right. You're not going to be hung, we're just going to execute you summarily because you're not worth televising."

In another message, according to court documents, Winegar said, "How is there a pandemic when 99.9% of people survive? Huh? It seems like you don't understand what the — a pandemic is. You better get behind Donald Trump or we're going to hang you, and I'm going to laugh..."

Another voicemail stated, "I've seen everything going along in the media these days, and quite, quite honestly, I'm very scared for our republic."

According to another voicemail, an official identified in documents as Congress Member 3 "needs to back our president, Donald Trump, and recognize that the Democrats and the Democratic Party and the Chinese communist party have been attacking our country and attacking our free elections.

"Do the right thing or patriots are going to come, and we're going to —ing kill you all."

Winegar's attorney, Charles Keefe of Nashua, told the court this week his client regrets making the calls, which he said were made after "a night of drinking."

"After months of becoming caught up in ultra-conservative news outlet information, and allowing himself to be indoctrinated with a dogma spewed by the former president and his followers, Ryder's depression and anxiety found an outlet," Keefe wrote.

"Fueled by his intoxication, Ryder proceeded to leave a series of disgusting, racist, and threatening voicemails for six members of Congress regarding the results of the 2020 presidential election. By doing so, he jeopardized his freedom, placed great burdens on his family, caused the government to expend resources, and besmirched his incredibly honorable military service. For his actions and their consequences on others, Ryder has great remorse. He presents himself to this court as a humble man who did an incredibly stupid thing during a time of strained mental health."

Winegar has been in custody since his arrest in January. In addition to his sentence, Winegar was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine.

"Today's sentencing sends a clear message that threats of violence have no place in our political discourse," said Acting U.S. Attorney John Farley. "While all citizens are free to express their political opinions, it is unlawful to threaten to commit acts of violence against members of Congress or members of the state legislature. This defendant's graphic threats were a troubling attempt to intimidate lawmakers and a direct assault on the functioning of our constitutional system."

"Threatening to attack and kill six members of Congress and a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives to prevent them from carrying out their constitutional duties is a federal crime, not protected speech," said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division.

Winegar made the telephone calls three weeks before the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. No claims were ever made that Winegar took part in those events.

Attorney Keefe told the court a "simple Google search" of his client's name reveals he has been "publicly shamed" for his actions.

"He understands that he has earned this 'red lettering,' but his family does not deserve to suffer the consequences of his actions," Keefe said.


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