Advance Notice: Briefs

Man who threatened Whitmer, Benson and others pleads no contest

By: - September 14, 2023 1:59 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson at the Michigan Democratic Party’s nominating convention in Lansing on Aug. 21, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

James Toepler, a 60-year-old Detroit resident, on Wednesday pleaded no contest to one count of malicious use of telecommunications services, for threatening to kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and other unspecified lawmakers in a call to the Detroit Police Department 9-1-1 Call Center.

According to a press release from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Toepler made the call on June 23, 2021. 

Judge E. Lynise Bryant, who presided over the pre-trial hearing in the 36th District Court in Detroit, agreed to sentence Toepler to a specialized mental health treatment court.

“This is not protected speech, but an attempt to terrorize and intimidate,” Nessel said. “Elected officials should not face death threats for merely doing their jobs. The Hate Crimes and Domestic Terrorism Unit of my office will continue to prosecute threats against public officials whenever they occur.”

There have been a number of violent threats against Michigan elected officials in recent years, including a 2020 domestic terrorism plot to kidnap and kill Whitmer over her early COVID-19 health orders, which has resulted in multiple arrests and convictions.

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Kyle Davidson
Kyle Davidson

Kyle Davidson covers state government alongside health care, business and the environment. A graduate of Michigan State University, Kyle studied journalism and political science. He previously covered community events, breaking news, state policy and the environment for outlets including the Lansing State Journal, the Detroit Free Press and Capital News Service.