A man from Lawrence, Kansas who was accused of threatening the life of a Republican Congressman represented himself in court. He went on a religious rant during his federal trial on Wednesday.
Last year, Chase Neill was charged with a felony after he left a series of voice messages at the office of Kansas Republican Representative Jake LaTurner and threatening to murder him as "an act of God."
According to a recording played in court, one of Neill's messages to the federal official was:
"This is a threat to your life and all the members of Congress."
Prosecutors must determine whether or not Neill's statements were a credible threat or if he could actually act on them–which his attorneys contested.
The Kansas City Star reported U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter ruled last year Neill was competent enough to follow court proceedings and stand trial after a psychological evaluation.
Although they granted Neill's motion, Teeter warned him it would be a bad idea and previously called it "unwise."
The news outlet mentioned an earlier order from a magistrate judge expressed serious concerns over Neill's mental health. His mother noted a change in her son's behavior after he sustained head trauma five years ago which was “characterized as a head fracture.”
Prosecutors played a voicemail Neill left last year on June 5.
In the message, Neill described himself as “son of God”, the “Messiah” and “Ephraim.”
Neill expressed his suspicions about witchcraft in Congress–in addition to referencing divination, aliens and a conspiracy involving former Republican President Donald Trump–and said he was making a death threat against LaTurner and other Congressmen on behalf of God.
He addressed LaTurner in the message and said.
“I will kill you but the insurance will say it is an act of God and that it is covered by the freedom of speech."
Upon receiving the death threat, LaTurner said in his testimony he tightened security protocols at his Topeka office by having staff members install surveillance cameras and locking the doors more regularly.
Topeka police patrolled LaTurner's neighborhood for the safety of his family. The U.S. Capitol Police also opened an investigation following the threats.
Said the second-term Congressman:
“This threat was so clear that it made me nervous for my staff."
On Wednesday, Neill–who was dressed casually in khaki pants, a blue jacket and a dress shirt without a tie–cross-examined LaTurner by referencing passages from theBible.
According to the Kansas City Star Neill also asked LaTurner if he was:
"...familiar with Old Testament doctrine in the Bible in which prophets spoke for God in the first person and whether he would listen if a constituent told LaTurner he was a religious heir sent to deliver a message."
LaTurner said there was a difference between constituent communication and violent threats.
The Congressman made it clear to Neill he will not entertain constituents who make death threats.
Referring to the "act of God" statement Neill made, LaTurner said:
“I thought it meant something more nefarious, that there would be an attempt to kill me but it wouldn’t be detectable."
The Republican Representative was the final witness for the prosecution.
The trial was scheduled to wrap up on Thursday.