HARTFORD, CT —Less than a week after violence at the U.S. Capitol, state Capitol police and Connecticut legislative leaders were made aware of a potential Facebook threat against the co-chair of the Judiciary Committee.
The threat was left during a Facebook conversation about the new police accountability law on the political page of Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Southington.
A commenter, Greg Tubby of Columbia, posted: “we can just take justice in our own hands. Hopefully the sanitation system will pick up the carcass.”
Sampson had posted a link to a CTNewsJunkie story on the committee’s upcoming legislative agenda and commented that he would be seeking to repeal the police accountability law that was passed in late July.
Dozens of comments were posted discussing Sampson’s stance and the need for legislative reforms that are tougher on crime. The threat was made as part of the discussion. Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee contacted Capitol police and legislative leaders to make them aware of the threat after it was discovered.
“This isn’t the first time,” Winfield said. “I received death threats for opposing the death penalty.”
Winfield has been a lightning rod for criticism due to the controversial nature of what the committee does, he said. “I chose to do some of the most controversial stuff and unfortunately this is what happens,” he said.
Winfield notified Capitol police who are looking into the post, said Sgt. Jeff Barter. “We will be following up,” said Barter who added that the local police department where Tubby lives may be notified.
Sampson was made aware of the threat early Monday morning. He contends that he can’t monitor every comment on every post that he makes and that the threat came to light because “the Democrats and sympathetic progressive members of the media are attempting to link it to me for political purposes.”
“First, I obviously condemn violence or threats of violence,” Sampson said in a statement issued Monday. “It is worth noting that I am on the receiving end of the same kind of hostility on a regular basis. I do everything I can to remind my neighbors that the beauty of America is that we are free to disagree, and to do so with passion. However, there is no reason we cannot do so politely and with respect for our fellow man or woman.”
Sampson said he made it a point of condemning the violence that occurred in Washington D.C. last week when rioters stormed the Capitol building seeking to disrupt Congress’ approval of the Electoral College vote proclaiming Joe Biden president.
He “pointed out that violence and threats are never acceptable, regardless of which side of the issues each of us falls,” Sampson said.
After a review of the post, Sampson asked the man who commented to clarify his remarks. “I understand people are frustrated but there is no reason to ever suggest violence is the answer.”
Legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut expressed concern that the post was “lingering unaddressed” for hours before Sampson decided to take action.
“We’ve all seen what happens when this stuff is allowed to fester when nothing happens,” said Dan Barrett, the CT ACLU’s Legal Director.
The riot at the Capitol building caused members of the U.S. Congress and Senate to flee to undisclosed locations to escape the violence. Six people died including two Capitol police officers, one who was injured during the fracas and a second who committed suicide days later, published reports said.
It also called into question the role of social media in inciting violence and led to several platforms banning calls for insurrection led by far right and militia groups. Twitter suspended the account of President Donald Trump.
Sampson said he is hoping to encourage people to have civil discourse on political issues from this point on.
“There are those who want to continue to divide our nation,” Sampson said. “I am not one of them. I want us to return to being one country under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Please join me in concentrating on what unites us, including the respect for one another’s right to disagree.”