NY man arrested after death threat to Republican Congressman over infrastructure vote

LAKE RONKONKOMA, Long Island (WABC) -- A 64-year-old Long Island man was arrested after allegedly making a death threat to Congressman Andrew Garbarino, one of 13 House Republicans who supported President Joe Biden's $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Kenneth Gasper, of Lake Ronkonkoma, was arrested Wednesday in connection with a telephoned death threat against Garbarino.

Police said Gasper made the phone call Monday over a vote by Garbarino that Gasper "did not agree with."

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Gaspar "was extremely upset over an infrastructure bill," called Garbarino a "RINO," and vowed, "If I see that mother (expletive) in the street, I'm going to kill him," according to the criminal complaint.

He is charged with second-degree aggravated harassment.

"I think he is upset with himself that he made this kind of threat," Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said. "He got caught up in the moment."

Ryder said Gasper is a Long Island Rail Road retiree with no criminal record.

"He used some profanity and then he made a threat," he said. "This one, he said, obviously, 'I will kill him.' That's a problem for us."

Gasper's attorney, John Ray, denied that his client made a threat.

"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," Ray said. "He conveyed his chagrin to an unseasoned aide in Mr. Garbarino's office. Ken never made any threat. He will plead that he is innocent. I'll do my usual work, and true justice will resolve this matter for this grandfather with a spotless record. Mr. Garbarino can rest at ease."

Garbarino, who was elected in 2020 after longtime congressional member Peter King announced his retirement, was one of 13 Republicans who voted for the infrastructure package November 5.

The 13 defectors have been attacked by fellow Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, over their vote.

Garbarino has said that misinformation spread by his House colleagues and conservative pundits puts lawmakers' safety at risk.

"Unfortunately, there's been so much misinformation circulation and it's causing a lot of anger and confusion," he said. "But the truth is that the Infrastructure bill is not the reconciliation bill. It's about paving roads, repairing bridges and bringing jobs back to Long Island. Anyone saying otherwise is trafficking in lies."

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Garbarino's office says this is just one of several instances of harassment, both over the phone and in person, including hate messages posted outside his Massapequa Park office.

Republicans who side against the perceived party line are increasingly frequent targets.

Gasper pleaded not guilty, was released on his own recognizance, and was ordered to stay away from the Congressman and the aide who answered the phone.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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