Police arrested a 39-year-old Arkansas man Tuesday after he allegedly made a total of more than 40 threatening and harassing calls to CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Some of the calls reportedly included death threats against anchor Don Lemon.
What were the charges?
Benjamin Craig Matthews of Mountain Home, Arkansas, was charged with five felony counts of terroristic threatening, nine misdemeanor counts of harassing communications and four misdemeanor counts of second-degree terroristic threatening, according to a release from the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office.
Matthews allegedly began making calls to CNN headquarters in Atlanta on Oct. 31. On that day, he allegedly threatened to beat up Lemon and was verbally abusive with a phone operator.
On Nov. 1, Matthews allegedly called the news outlet six times in 23 minutes. During one of the calls, he reportedly asked to be connected to Lemon’s “dead body hanging from a tree.”
During another call, Matthews allegedly asked the operator to help kill Lemon.
He is also accused of making six calls to the network during another 23-minute time frame on Nov. 2.
During three calls, Matthews reportedly asked to be connected to “pipe bombs for Don Lemon.”
An Atlanta Police Department investigator that works with the Department of Homeland Security, M.J. Condland, traced the phone back to Matthews. Condland then contacted the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office, reports state.
A Sheriff’s Office investigator, Brad Hurst, took the case and interviewed someone who reportedly identified Matthews’ voice as the alleged speaker in the CNN phone calls.
The investigation also found that Matthews allegedly called U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y., attorney Michael Avenatti, the Washington Speakers Bureau and Planned Parenthood, USA Today reported.
According to an affidavit, Matthews’ alleged calls were apparently prompted by his political beliefs, according to USA Today.
The felony charges are punishable by up to six years in prison for each conviction. He was taken to Baxter County jail. A hearing was set for Thursday.
The arrest came just weeks after a man was arrested after sending explosive devices to CNN.
CNN also reported receiving threatening phone calls in August. A caller to one of their programs threatened to shoot host Brian Stelter and Lemon if he ever saw them.
At the time, Stelter said the president’s criticism of certain journalists was having an impact because threats were on the rise.