RICHMOND—A man accused of threatening to shoot an intern on the staff of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives was ordered held in jail Wednesday while his case goes before a federal grand jury.
Steven B. Bridgers, 61, who is said to be a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder and no criminal record, allegedly called the intern on March 4 and March 25, wanting the Judiciary Committee to use the espionage act to prosecute former secretary of state and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Hugh Thatcher, a special agent with the U.S. Capitol Police, testified before U.S. Magistrate Judge Roderick C. Young on Wednesday that on March 4, a call was received at 9:46 a.m. by a man alleged to be Bridgers, who identified himself as, “Steve,” and who said he was a decorated U.S. Navy veteran who had previously contacted the committee.
“Steve” said he was upset that his recommendations to the committee had not been acted upon or considered by the committee and asked the intern if he was taking notes.
According to an affidavit filed by Thatcher in the case, the caller said, “If you don’t pass the note I will shoot you in the arm. If you still don’t I will shoot you in the leg. Then if you still have not passed the note I will shoot you in the head.”
Thatcher said Wednesday that the caller said he was a trained veteran who knew how to kill, that he knew the intern was a “nobody” and that he would get him first. A second call was made to the same staffer on March 25.
Thomas A. Garnett, an assistant U.S. attorney, asked Thatcher, “Did you believe it was a serious threat?”
“Absolutely,” responded the agent.
Thatcher’s affidavit said that the office of Bridgers’ congressman—who was not identified—was working with a Steven B. Bridgers, who said he was a U.S. Navy veteran who had PTSD and had lost his job because of the disability.
Calls made from Steven B. Bridgers’ cellphone matched up with times, dates and duration of calls to the staffer that were passed through the U.S. Capitol Switchboard.
Thatcher said it is believed Bridgers, a resident of the Fredericksburg area, is unemployed and is living in the home of a former girlfriend that the bank is about to foreclose on. He said a search of the home turned up a shotgun near the front door and suspected drug paraphernalia.
Bridgers’ lawyer, Robert Wagner, argued that there was no probable cause to believe a “true threat” had been made.
“There is no indication in the case this was interpreted as a serious expression of intent to do harm,” said Wagner. It was at most a conditional threat and that the statements at issue were political.
“The government waited 3 1/2 months in order to bring Mr. Bridgers here,” Wagner told Young. Authorities would have acted more quickly if he was perceived to be a true threat.
Garnett countered that, “This was not political speech. This was a deliberate threat.” Garnett also said that Bridgers had no strong ties to the community and that he was a threat to public safety.
In the end, Young found probable cause that a crime had been committed and ordered Bridgers held while his case goes before a grand jury.
Among other things, Young said that before he would agree to release him, he would want some third-party supervision, but that none of the people contacted on his behalf agreed to do so.