Trial starts for man accused of threatening Kansas lawmaker

Legal Compliance

Jury selection began Tuesday in a federal criminal trial for a man prosecutors say became fixated on a Kansas congressman and threatened to kill him, a case that comes amid what authorities say is a sharp rise in treats to the nation’s lawmakers and their families.

Prosecutors say Chase Neill, 32, threatened to kill U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner in a June 5 voicemail message left at the Republican congressman’s office, then continued to make threatening calls the following day. In one message, presiding U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter said in court Tuesday, he told LaTurner that he would “die by the hand of God.”

Jury selection began in the morning after Neill withdrew a request to act as his own attorney. His court-appointed public defenders notified Teeter of that request Friday and told her they would refuse to work with him in a “hybrid” defense. After a private conference, Teeter told Neill from the bench that she believed such an arrangement would be “untenable.”

After Neill withdrew his request, Teeter told him, “For whatever it’s worth, I think that’s a very wise decision.”

Neill’s trial in U.S. District Court on one count of threatening a public official was scheduled through Friday. It came weeks after Teeter concluded that evidence of mental illness doesn’t mean Neill can’t help his attorney or follow what happens in court.

Before jury selection, Teeter confirmed with prosecutors and Neill’s attorneys that no plea bargains had been offered or sought.

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