By Julia Conley and Jon Queally
After a man accused of threatening her life pled guilty to the crime in a U.S. District Court, Rep. Ilhan Omar on Tuesday released publicly a letter she wrote asking the federal judge presiding over the case to “show compassion” in his sentencing.
Patrick W. Carlineo Jr., a 55-year-old man from upstate New York, pled guilty on Monday on gun charges and for threatening to murder Omar in phone calls he made to her congressional office in March of this year. But in her letter to Judge Frank P. Geraci Jr., Omar said that while the charges were quite serious, she did not think that an overly punitive sentence was the answer.
“The answer to hate is not more hate; it is compassion,” Omar wrote.
“Who are we as a nation,” her letter asks, “if we respond to threats of political retribution with retribution ourselves?”
The Minnesota Democrat posted the letter in its entirety on social media.
The formal complaint against Carlineo Jr. charged that he cited Omar being a Muslim before calling her a “terrorist” and threatening to “put a bullet in her [expletive] skull” when he called her office.
In her letter, Omar argues that punishing Carlineo “with a lengthy prison sentence or a burdensome financial fine would not rehabilitate him” or repair the harm he caused. Likely, Omar said, such a sentence “would only increase his anger and resentment.”
In her letter, Omar said the U.S. must address the “systemic alienation” that victimizes people who often go on to commit acts of violence “through community reintegration and social services.”
Carlineo’s crime, Omar pointed out, is just a single example of the hate speech and political violence which “are an increasing feature in our public sphere.”
“We will not defeat it with anger and exclusion,” Omar wrote. “We will defeat it with compassion.”
The congresswoman’s letter garnered applause from progressives and critics of the U.S. prison system including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “I agree with Representative Ilhan Omar: The answer to hate is not more hate; it is compassion,” Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted.
“I’m amazed at this letter from Ilhan Omar, asking for mercy for the man who was just convicted of threatening to assassinate her,” tweeted Slate writer and podcast host Aymann Ismail.
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