An upstate New York man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to threatening to harm Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and to show her “what violence truly is” in several phone messages left at her congressional office, federal prosecutors said.
The man, Joseph F. Morelli, 51, of Endicott, N.Y., was indicted last April on three counts of transmitting interstate threatening communications after he left seven menacing messages for Ms. Greene, Republican of Georgia, at her Washington office over two days in March, according to court filings.
In one of the messages, in which Mr. Morelli identified himself and which investigators traced to his phone, he said of Ms. Greene that he was going to “have to take your life into my own hands,” according to an F.B.I. agent’s affidavit.
“I’m gonna hurt you,” he added, the affidavit says. “Physically, I’m gonna harm you.”
In a second, obscenity-laced message about 10 minutes later, the affidavit says, Mr. Morelli spelled out his name, dictated his number and reiterated the threat.
“I think I’m gonna have to show you, to your face, right up front, what violence truly is,” he said, according to the affidavit. “And I don’t think you’re gonna like it.” He added: “I can pay someone 500 bucks to take a baseball bat and crack your skull.”
Ms. Greene’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. She has been criticized for using inflammatory language herself and for liking social media posts before her election to Congress that endorsed the execution of top Democratic politicians.
Gabrielle DiBella, a federal public defender who represented Mr. Morelli in the case, declined to comment on the plea. In a letter filed with the court last month, she said he had spent the past 10 months receiving treatment for the mental illness that she cited as the “root cause of his criminal activity.”
Mr. Morelli, Ms. DiBella wrote, had been unable to hold a steady job and was forced to rely on disability benefits after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He had kept busy since his arrest by restoring guitars that he hoped to sell online, she added.
Having pleaded guilty to the three counts against him, Mr. Morelli faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced in June, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of New York.
Members of Congress in both parties have experienced a surge in threats and confrontations over the past several years amid a rise in violent political speech.
In the five years following Donald J. Trump’s election to the presidency after a 2016 campaign that featured a significant amount of violent language, the number of recorded threats against members of Congress rose more than tenfold, to 9,625 in 2021, according to figures from the Capitol Police. In the first quarter of 2022, the force opened 1,820 cases.
A New York Times review of threats last year that resulted in indictments found that more than a third were made by Republican or pro-Trump individuals against Democrats or Republicans deemed insufficiently loyal to Mr. Trump, and that nearly a quarter were by Democrats targeting Republicans. In other cases, party affiliation could not be determined.