Crime

Florida man pleads guilty to making death threats in calls to members of Congress

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Tamarac car mechanic John Kless won’t go to federal prison for anything he did with his legally owned handgun, rifle and AR-15.

But Kless will go to prison for what he pleaded guilty to doing with the cellphone account under his wife’s name.

Kless, 49, made phone calls to two U.S. representatives and one U.S. senator on April 16 chock-full of racial slurs, curse words and — the part that’s not legally protected by the First Amendment — death threats. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of interstate transmission of threats. He’ll be sentenced Aug. 20.

According to Kless’ admission of facts, his April 16 political phone calls began with a 7 a.m. call to the office of U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California). He left a rambling voicemail rant that touched on 9/11 , government assistance recipients and his disgust with Democrats.

Swalwell, a staunch advocate of banning assault weapons, announced his run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in Broward. Since the Parkland shootings, Swalwell has been building relationships with some of the student activists and families whose children were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.



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Eric Swalwell Jr, U.S. Representative from California’s 15th congressional district, at a town hall meeting at BB&T Center in Sunrise in April. Pedro Portal pportal@herald.com

At 7:09 a.m., Kless called U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) and left another long voicemail that said Tlaib and another freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), were lucky their death threats were only threats. The two congresswomen are the first Muslim women elected to the House.



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U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib Getty Images

He completed his angry hat trick with a 7:30 a.m. call to the office of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), threatening him and using racial slurs. Booker, who is also seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, is African American.

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U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker during his stop in Miami in April. David Smiley dsmiley@miamiherald.com

Cellphone records revealed the number was attached to the account of Kim Kless, John’s wife. The agents then tracked the “ping” GPS coordinates for the phone to the Kless home and, for the bulk of the day, at the Toyota dealership where Kless worked.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.

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