Supreme Court security in spotlight after Kavanaugh threat
The attempted murder charges against a California man who allegedly threatened to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh rattled Washington on Wednesday and raised questions about the security and safety of the Supreme Court justices as they prepare to deliver an opinion on the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion case.
The Justice Department has charged California resident Nicholas Roske with attempted murder, alleging he appeared in Kavanaugh’s Maryland neighborhood early Wednesday morning with a gun.
Roske allegedly later told police during questioning that he was “upset” about a draft Supreme Court decision that would overturn precedent granting a federal constitutional right to abortion, according to the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday. POLITICO exclusively reported on the draft opinion on Roe last month, and the final decision could land any time the coming days or weeks.
The Kavanaugh threat may be the most frightening incident in the past month as the Supreme Court has come under withering scrutiny for its looming opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, and the high court is clearly on edge these days. Barricades have been erected around the court, while inside the chambers an internal investigation has been launched to probe the disclosure of the draft opinion on Roe.
The judges have faced protests at their homes, and extra security has been deployed to protect them. Justice Samuel Alito went as far as giving a speech from an undisclosed location after his home was targeted by protesters last month.
Shortly after the Kavanaugh threat hit the media on Wednesday, Republicans in Congress lashed out at Democrats, calling on the House to pass a measure that would increase security for the Supreme Court and justices’ families.
“House Democrats need to pass this bill and they need to do it today,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “No more fiddling around with this. They need to pass it today. They need to stop their multi-week blockade against this Supreme Court security bill and pass it before the sun sets today.”
The suspect in the Kavanaugh threat also expressed concerns about the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday afternoon in federal Court in Greenbelt, Md. Roske said he thought the Supreme Court justice would move to loosen gun laws, the complaint says.
Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, allegedly called the Montgomery County Emergency Communications Center and said he had traveled from California with a gun in his suitcase to kill “a specific Supreme Court justice,” according to the complaint.
Roske also said he was having suicidal thoughts and later said he planned to kill the justice and himself, the complaint says.
Deputy U.S. Marshals on duty in the area had seen Roske getting out of a taxi near the justice’s home just after 1 a.m. Wednesday, shortly prior to his call to authorities, according to the complaint.
In the suitcase and a backpack, Roske had a Glock 17 pistol with two magazines and ammunition, tactical knife, pepper spray, zip ties, various tools and duct tape, the complaint says.
Roske was informed of his constitutional rights and signed a waiver before speaking to agents later Wednesday morning and repeating statements similar to what he allegedly told local detectives, the complaint says.
Roske appeared briefly before a federal magistrate judge in Greenbelt on Wednesday afternoon, court records show. Represented by a federal defender, Roske agreed not to contest his detention for now, but left open the possibility of seeking release in the future.
Roske was being held at a state jail, the Chesapeake Detention Facility in Baltimore, according to a Maryland inmate database.
Asked about the incident near Kavanaugh’s house, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “The President condemns the actions of this individual in the strongest terms.”
While Kavanaugh wasn’t named in the complaint, earlier Wednesday, a Supreme Court spokesperson confirmed that an unnamed individual had been arrested by local police in the vicinity of his home in the Washington, D.C., suburbs.
“At approximately 1:50 a.m. today, a man was arrested near Justice Kavanaugh’s residence. The man was armed and made threats against Justice Kavanaugh. He was transported to Montgomery County Police 2nd District,” Court spokesperson Patricia McCabe said in an email.
The incident near Kavanaugh’s home Wednesday was first reported by the Washington Post.
Demonstrations began near the homes of some conservative Supreme Court justices last month after POLITICO published the draft majority opinion that would overturn the landmark abortion rights ruling Roe v. Wade.
The protests and reports of related threats against justices led Republicans at the state and federal level to argue that the Justice Department was not taking sufficient actions to protect the justices and their families. Some Republicans also called for criminal charges against those protesting at justices’ homes, although the statute they cited has never been enforced to quell such demonstrations.
On May 11, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced he had ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to assist in providing round-the-clock security to justices. About a week later, Garland and other Justice Department officials met with Supreme Court officials to “enhance coordination, intelligence sharing, and technical support as it relates to judicial security,” the Justice Department said in a statement.