Ilhan Omar pleads for compassion for man who threatened her life

Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has a message for the judge who will decide the fate of the man who threatened to kill her: she wants restorative justice.

Patrick Carlineo called Omar’s office in the middle of the day on 21 March and got through to one of her staffers. On the call, Carlineo is said to have accused Omar of being a terrorist, before saying: “Why are you working for her, she’s a [expletive] terrorist. Somebody ought to put a bullet in her skull. Back in the day, our forefathers would have put a bullet in her [expletive].” (US attorneys removed the actual expletives in their filing.)

Carlineo pleaded guilty to the offense on Tuesday.

In a letter to Judge Frank Geraci, who will decide on the case, Omar pleaded for compassion for Carlineo.

In a two-page open letter, Omar began by stressing the seriousness of his crime.

“As someone who fled a war zone, I know how destabilizing acts of political violence can be. That his threat of violence relied on hateful stereotypes about my faith only made it more dangerous … It was a threat against an entire religion, at a time of rising hate crime against religious minorities in our country,” she said.

Noting that those who commit acts of violence have often been victims of alienation and neglect themselves, Omar said that compassion, not retribution, might be the only way to rehabilitate him:

“We must ask: who are we as a nation if we respond to acts of political retribution with retribution ourselves? The answer to hate is not more hate; it is compassion,” she wrote.

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Omar suggested that community integration and social services would serve Carlineo better than a long prison sentence or a hefty fine. If convicted, his alleged crime could carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, and a $250,000 fine.

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“Punishing the defendant with a lengthy prison sentence or a burdensome financial fine would not rehabilitate him. It would not repair the harm he has caused. It would only increase his anger and resentment,” wrote Omar.

She ended by saying that although acts of political violence are increasing, that anger and exclusion is not the solution. She quoted Nelson Mandela, who once said: “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love.”

She ended by pleading with the judge: “I ask you to show compassion in your sentencing.”

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