Texas resident Scott Eli Harris is facing federal indictment after he threatened a doctor who was advocating for vaccinations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the district of Maryland has announced in a statement.
The indictment against Harris, 51, was made on Sept. 29 and was publicly unsealed on Tuesday.
The threats were directed against Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore City Health Commissioner and current medical analyst with CNN, over her backing of the COVID-19 vaccine, CBS Baltimore reported.
Harris, who lives in Aubrey, Texas, faces a maximum five-year sentence in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if he is convicted after he was charged for threats he made across state lines to Wen via cellphone on July 12.
According to the U.S. attorney office's press release, Harris said in the message, referring to the vaccine, "Never going to take your wonder drug. My 12 gauge promises I won't ... I can't wait for the shooting to start."
The message also allegedly refers to the fact that Wen is a Chinese immigrant and includes other offensive, threatening language.
U.S. Attorney Erek Barron said "we take seriously threats and intimidation, and this charge makes clear that such conduct will be prosecuted federally," adding that "we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those making such threats."
Vaccine advocates have been facing threats of violence and harassment recently, The Hill reported, including California police citing an anti-vaccine supporter for the assault of a pro-vaccine legislator in August.
Maryland federal prosecutors also charged a West Virginia man in July with threatening chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci and his family, The Baltimore Sun reported.
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