Man accused of threatening LI congressman’s life is arraigned, disputes the charge

Long Island

MASSAPEQUA PARK, N.Y. — A Long Island man has been arraigned on criminal charges and awaits another day in court after being arrested for threatening the life of his local member of Congress. Meanwhile, his alleged actions are being criticized as being part of a larger culture of intimidation.

Kenneth Gasper, 64, is charged with aggravated harassment. 

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said that his department was stepping up patrols at the office of Rep. Andrew Garbarino after a staff member there took a call on Monday.  

Investigators used caller I.D. to track the call back to Gasper, a retired Long Island Rail Road employee.

According to Commissioner Ryder, the message that Gasper gave was clear, and profane.

“And it went like this,” said the commissioner. “‘If I see that mother f-er in the street, I’m going to kill him.'”

A credible death threat is a crime in any case, but because this one was made against a federal elected official, U.S. Capitol Police as well as local police had to get involved.

“These threats we take very serious,” said Ryder.  

Investigators say that Gasper made the call because he was angry over Congressman Garbarino’s vote in favor of the $1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure bill. 

The bipartisan legislation passed in the House of Representatives by mostly Democrats, and 13 Republicans, including Garbarino.

Some Democrats refused to vote yes unless another, larger measure, called the Reconciliation Bill, also was voted on. It was not, but Garbarino pointed out in a statement that there had been angry confusion.

“But the truth is that the Infrastructure Bill is not the Reconciliation Bill,” Garbarino’s statement reads, in part. “It’s about paving roads, repairing bridges, and bringing jobs to Long Island. I’d like to thank the Nassau County Police Department as well as Capitol Police for working diligently to address this threat to me and my staff. I will continue to assist law enforcement in any way that I can with this ongoing criminal investigation.”

The long-time congressman who Garbarino succeeded, Republican Peter King, said that he would have voted the same way, and that he sees the threat to be part of a bigger problem that some elected officials in his own party need to crack down on.

He said that some angry voters “get enabled by people in Congress who use words like ‘traitor’ and ‘treason’ and ‘evil.’  It’s really demeaning the whole political world today.”

Gasper hired an attorney to represent him, going forward. Lawyer John Ray issued a statement late Friday afternoon reading in part, “Ken is an ordinary American who was offended when politician Garbarino became an overnight Democrat and voted, in Ken’s view, to wreck our country. He conveyed his chagrin to an unseasoned telephone aide in Mr. Garbarino’s office. Ken never made any threat. He will plead innocent.”

Gasper’s next court date is November 24. If found guilty, he faces up to one year behind bars for the misdemeanor charge. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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