Fort Wayne man charged with felony in harassment of Congressman Banks
Law enforcement charged a Fort Wayne man with intimidation and harassment of Congressman Jim Banks. (Photo courtesy of congressional office)
Allen County prosecutors charged a Fort Wayne man with intimidation and harassment of Congressman Jim Banks after he allegedly threatened the elected representative and his family.
Aaron L. Thompson, born in 1989, called Banks’ congressional office at least eight times — once on April 6 and seven times on April 11 — and left several threatening messages, according to a probable cause filing obtained by the Indiana Capital Chronicle.
Intimidation is a Level 6 felony in Indiana, carrying a possible sentence of between six months and 2 1/2 years in prison. Harassment is a Class B misdemeanor.
In an interview with the United States Capitol Police, Thompson admitted to being intoxicated and calling Banks because he disagreed with his political views. In his messages, Thompson said he owned a gun as allowed by the Constitution and told Banks to choose between himself or his daughters, according to the June 2 filing.
“Here’s the choice. Your daughters grow up without their dad or you grow old without your daughters,” Thompson allegedly said. “… boom, boom you pick …”
To Banks specifically, Thompson said he hoped the representative died in a car crash or “(got) his brains blown out,” in an expletive-filled series of messages.
He was arrested Friday after Allen County Prosecutor Mike McAlexander filed charges. The Allen County Superior Court held an initial hearing Tuesday morning and issued five “no contact” orders in the case — presumably for each member of the Banks family. Thompson’s next court date is Aug. 2.
In a statement, Banks said, “The safety of my family is my top priority. I’ve been instructed to refer all questions about the ongoing criminal investigation to the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office.”
A larger problem
Intimidation and harassment of Congressional representatives has increased rapidly in recent years but few are ever prosecuted, as detailed by States Newsroom earlier this year.
Out of the roughly 7,500 threats reviewed by Capitol Police in 2022, fewer than two dozen people were charged. Reports spiked in 2021 at 9,600 — more than double the 4,000 logged in 2017 — and declined to 7,501 in 2022.
Threats can include letters sent to Congressional offices, online intimidation or harassment by phone. But the legal definition leaves room for interpretation.
In terms of the 7,501 threats cataloged in 2022, only 313 were sent to local federal prosecutors.
The attack on former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in their California home drove fears to a peak, with more members sharing their stories of intimidation and bemoaning the lack of security.
Indeed, most members of Congress don’t have a security detail, which are reserved for senior members. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York City, told Axios last year that protection should be based on the volume of threats rather than the years served.
The surge in harassment hasn’t been limited to the highest offices in the nation. Indeed, even judges and local election officials have reported an uptick in threats and intimidation.
State lawmakers advanced a bill this session that would prohibit picketing outside of an individual’s home, citing the increased violent rhetoric and need to protect an individual’s privacy inside their home. The bill passed in the Senate but died in the House.
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