WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (AP) — A man accused of making credible death threats against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel has been charged on a terrorism count, the Wayne County prosecutor’s office said Friday.
Robert Tesh made the threats via a social media message to an acquaintance on April 14 and authorities concluded the message amounted to “credible threats to kill,” prosecutor Kym Worthy said Friday in a news release.
She didn’t provide any detail about the threats or how they were determined to be credible. Further details will be presented during court proceedings, she said.
Detroit police officers arrested the 32-year-old man the same day at his home. He was arraigned April 22 on a threat of terrorism charge. If convicted, Tesh could face up to 20 years in prison.
Worthy didn’t explain the delay in releasing information about the threats, arrest and arraignment.
“Emotions are heightened on all sides now,” she told The Associated Press Friday. “These threats … they are not funny. They are not jokes. There is nothing humorous about it. Even if you don’t carry it out, we’re going to charge you criminally.”
The threats from Tesh were not specific to Whitmer’s stay-at-home order issued in March in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the state, according to Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office. Whitmer has been the target of protests and rallies over her executive order which shut down most businesses in the state. The order is effective at least until May 28.
“The alleged facts in this case lay out a very disturbing scenario,” Worthy said. “We understand that these times can be stressful and upsetting for many people. But we will not and cannot tolerate threats like these against any public officials who are carrying out their duties as efficiently as they can. You can disagree with their positions or their methodology, but you absolutely cannot act as this defendant allegedly acted or you will be charged criminally.”
Hundreds of people protested Thursday outside the state Capitol to call for a loosening of restrictions and for business owners to reopen in defiance of Whitmer’s order. The protest was led by Michigan United for Liberty, a conservative activist group that has sued Whitmer and organized or participated in several rallies since early April.
During a rally last month, some armed protesters entered the Capitol building.
As of Thursday, more than 4,700 people had died in Michigan from complications related to COVID-19.
Whitmer told reporters Friday she has never felt unsafe and credited the state police for keeping her safe.
“It is never acceptable to make threats of violence to anyone, but our officeholders as well,” she said. “So we take (threats) very seriously. It is not easy. I’d be lying if I told you that any of us this has been easy.”
A spokesman for Nessel said in an email to the AP that her office was unable to comment on the arrest and charges since they relate “to an open criminal matter.”
Tesh was released from jail on April 29 after posting a $50,000 bond. He has been placed on a GPS tether. A probable cause conference is scheduled for June 3.
The AP left a message Friday seeking comment from Tesh’s attorney.
Associated Press writer David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this story.