Ar­raign­ment set for sus­pect in threat­en­ing calls to CNN

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - BILL BOW­DEN

A Moun­tain Home man ac­cused of mak­ing threat­en­ing tele­phone calls to CNN will be ar­raigned next week.

Ben­jamin Craig Matthews, 39, ap­peared Thurs­day in Bax­ter County Cir­cuit Court over a video link from jail, said Pros­e­cu­tor David Ethredge.

Cir­cuit Judge John Put­man or­dered Matthews to re­turn in a week for at­tor­ney sta­tus and ar­raign­ment, ac­cord­ing to a note in his court file.

Matthews will en­ter a plea in the case next Thurs­day, Ethredge said.

Matthews made more than 40 threat­en­ing calls to CNN from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, ac­cord­ing to a prob­a­ble-cause af­fi­davit. He was ar­rested on Elec­tion Day.

Matthews has been charged with five counts of felony ter­ror­is­tic threat­en­ing, four counts of mis­de­meanor ter­ror­is­tic threat­en­ing and nine counts of ha­rass­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions, which is a mis­de­meanor.

In sev­eral calls, Matthews, who is white, re­port­edly threat­ened a CNN jour­nal­ist de­scribed in court doc­u­ments as DL.

The calls be­gan shortly af­ter Oct. 29, when CNN host Don Lemon, who is black, said on a show re­gard­ing peo­ple head­ing north from Cen­tral Amer­ica that “We have to stop de­mo­niz­ing peo­ple and re­al­ize that the big­gest ter­ror threat in this coun­try is white men, most of them rad­i­cal­ized to the right, and we have to start do­ing some­thing about them. There is no travel ban on them. There is no ban — you know, they had the Mus­lim ban. There is no white-guy ban. So what do we do about that?”

In a broad­cast two nights later, Lemon re­ferred to his pre­vi­ous com­ment: “I said that the big­gest ter­ror threat in this coun­try comes from rad­i­cals on the far right, pri­mar­ily white men. That an­gered some peo­ple. But let’s put emo­tion aside and look at the cold hard facts. The ev­i­dence is over­whelm­ing.”

Lemon’s name isn’t men­tioned in the court fil­ings.

In one call, ac­cord­ing to the af­fi­davit, a caller asked the CNN switch­board op­er­a­tor, “Could I be di­rected to DL’s dead body hang­ing from a tree?”

An­other time, a caller asked if he could be di­rected to “pipe bombs for DL.” That call was placed one week af­ter Ce­sar Sayoc was ar­rested in con­nec­tion with more than a dozen pipe bombs sent to promi­nent Democrats and crit­ics of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. Some of the bombs were ad­dressed to CNN con­trib­u­tors and mailed to CNN of­fices.

An­other call spoke of “bloody pic­tures of DL cut up in small pieces, like the movie Saw,” ac­cord­ing to the

A protest out­side the Wash­ing­ton home of Tucker Carl­son, a Fox News host and for­mer Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette ed­i­to­rial writer, re­sulted in a cracked front door, Carl­son told The Wash­ing­ton Post.

af­fi­davit from Sgt. Brad Hurst with the Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

Email was sent to two spokes­men for CNN on Thurs­day re­quest­ing com­ment. Nei­ther re­sponded.

CNN has been a tar­get of Trump. At Trump ral­lies, the crowds of­ten chant “CNN sucks” and some peo­ple hold signs to that ef­fect.

On Thurs­day, the White House yanked the press cre­den­tials of Jim Acosta, a CNN cor­re­spon­dent who clashed with Trump at a news con­fer­ence ear­lier that day.

But CNN wasn’t the only me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tion to face hos­til­ity on Wed­nes­day.

A protest out­side the Wash­ing­ton home of Tucker Carl­son, a Fox News host and for­mer Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette ed­i­to­rial writer, re­sulted in a cracked front door, Carl­son told The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Trump fre­quently praises Fox News.

About 20 ac­tivists with an anti-fas­cist group called Smash Racism DC showed up out­side Carl­son’s home on Wed­nes­day, ac­cord­ing to the Post ar­ti­cle.

On Thurs­day, Smash Racism DC posted a mes­sage on its Face­book page say­ing “Fas­cists are vul­ner­a­ble! Con­front them at their homes!”

“Don­ald Trump, along with right wing pun­dits, like Tucker Carl­son and Ann Coul­ter, have de­mo­nized mil­lions of peo­ple, in­clud­ing im­mi­grants, Mus­lims, ‘di­ver­sity’ (code for black), and the left,” ac­cord­ing to the Face­book post.

On Nov. 2, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor from the At­lanta Po­lice Depart­ment con­tacted the Bax­ter County Sher­iff’s Of­fice about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Matthews.

Matthews’ tele­phone records in­di­cate he also made calls to MSNBC; U.S. Rep. Max­ine Wa­ters, D-Calif.; U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; at­tor­ney Michael Ave­natti; the Wash­ing­ton Speak­ers Bureau; and Planned Par­ent­hood, “sug­gest­ing a pat­tern of ha­rass­ment to­wards cer­tain po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions,” ac­cord­ing to the af­fi­davit.

The Demo­crat-Gazette re­ported Thurs­day about Matthews’ ar­rest. A link to the ar­ti­cle ap­peared on Ave­natti’s Twit­ter page.

“We are very pleased that due to the ef­forts of CNN and law en­force­ment, this man has fi­nally been taken into cus­tody for his out­ra­geous and crim­i­nal con­duct di­rected at CNN, Don, me and oth­ers,” wrote Ave­natti. “We want him fully pros­e­cuted and a firm mes­sage sent.”

Calls to spokes­men for Wa­ters and Schumer weren’t re­turned on Thurs­day.

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