“It is not necessary for the state to prove he had the ability to implement the threat ... but to prove he made the threat, which he did,” said Baltimore County Assistant State’s Attorney Leo Ryan.
Abbott, who was found guilty Monday of threatening a public official, was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation, with a suspended six-month jail sentence by Circuit Court Judge Dana Levitz.
He also must stay 500 feet away from O’Malley and his wife, and pay $500 in fines as well as court costs.
“I don’t think I’m capable of violence ... but [O’Malley] is a threat every day to the American people,” Abbott said after the verdict.
In March, Abbott submitted a comment on O’Malley’s Web site railing against the governor’s support of CASA de Maryland, an immigration advocacy group that does not question the legal status of its clients.
In his comment, Abbott wrote: “If I ever got close enough, I’d wrap my hands around your throat and choke the life out of you, you piece of s--- American sellout.”
Abbott, 44, said that groups like CASA foster illegal immigrants and have taken away jobs from legal residents, including himself.
O’Malley’s office declined to comment on the verdict.
Abbott’s attorney Arthur Frank argued that his client’s threats were “figures of speech” and more of a political statement than an actual death threat on O’Malley.
“It’s a commentary that is used by a lot of people,” Frank said.
But Ryan argued that it didn’t matter what Abbott was capable of, or even if O’Malley felt threatened — state law prohibits anyone from threatening a public official.
“I don’t think there is a recognition of the criminality of Mr. Abbott’s actions. This is a serious matter,” Ryan said.
A jury of 10 women and two men — only two of whom were minorities — reached its decision in an hour.
Abbott said he elected for a jury trial to bring his cause against illegal immigrants to the public.
Frank plans to file an appeal based on Levitz’s refusal to allow Frank to argue the letter was free speech protected by the First Amendment, and the state did not provide sufficient evidence against Abbott.
“You don’t have the right to threaten a public official,” Levitz said.
Abbott’s wife, Linda, cried after the verdict was read. Several of Abbott’s family members and supporters were at the trial.
He has 60 days to pay the fine, but the construction worker said finding work has been difficult because of “cutthroat prices” and illegal immigrants taking construction jobs.
“I’m sorry I sent the e-mail,” Abbott said after the verdict was read. “I didn’t realize it would have this kind of effect. I’m not a violent person.”