Man accused of threats to Rep. Lewis’ staff appears in court

ATLANTA (AP) — An Atlanta man accused of threatening the staff of U.S. Rep. John Lewis appeared confused in court on Thursday before a judge ordered him held until his next hearing.

Dante Antoine Rosser, 42, was taken into custody Thursday on a charge of threatening to assault a federal official, said FBI Special Agent David LeValley, head of the agency’s Atlanta office.

Rosser repeatedly called the office of the Democratic congressman and veteran civil rights activist, making 46 calls over a two-day period and demanding that his staff seek “financial reparations” for his family, authorities said. They didn’t detail why he sought reparations.

At one point, Rosser threatened a staffer by saying “I will blow your head off. You’re dead,” the FBI said in a statement that announced the charges.

“Law enforcement perceives this not only as a threat to individuals, but also to the democratic process,” FBI Special Agent Stephen Emmett said.

On Thursday, U.S. marshals escorted Rosser into a federal courtroom in Atlanta after he was taken into custody at his home. He wore a black shirt and jeans and had a chain attached at the ankles.

Though he appeared confused at points during Thursday’s hearing, Rosser answered routine questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman.

When asked if he understood the charges, Rosser replied, “I’ve been accused of threatening an official.”

Baverman scheduled a bond hearing Monday, and Rosser will be kept in custody at least until then.

Rosser’s public defender, Nicole Kaplan, declined to comment.

Lewis was 15 when he first heard Martin Luther King Jr. on the radio and subsequently joined the civil rights struggle of the era. As a young man in 1965, Lewis was beaten by Alabama law officers as led a march in Selma, Alabama — a day that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”

In recent weeks, Lewis made headlines as an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump. The congressman said he considered the president “illegitimate” because of alleged Russian meddling in the election. That prompted Trump to lash out at Lewis, saying on Twitter that the congressman’s district — which includes much of Atlanta — is “crime infested” and “falling apart.”

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