DENVER (AP) — A man who called the office of Colorado’s top elections official to say that the “angel of death was coming for her in the name of Jesus Christ” was sentenced to two years of probation Monday.
Kirk Wertz, 52, was convicted last week of one count of retaliating against an elected official, a felony, for the June 30, 2022, call to the office of Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold.
When a state trooper called Wertz back, he refused to answer whether he planned to harm Griswold, citing the First Amendment, and said, “And I’m an Oath Taker and an Oath Keeper and I owe you no explanation,” according to a court document.
During his sentencing hearing, Wertz denied being a member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right extremist group, calling it a “gross accusation” and calling his prosecution “malicious.” He said being an “Oath Taker” was a reference to him registering for possible military service when he turned 18 and the “Oath Keeper” was a reference to keeping an unspecified oath to God.
Judge Darryl Shockley said he did not believe Wertz planned to hurt Griswold. However, authorities had no choice but to view his threat as credible given his statements that he was an Oath Keeper and that he associated with militias, along with his refusal to say whether he intended to harm Griswold.
“They had to take it seriously,” Shockley said.
Wertz has been in jail for 286 days since his arrest but was set to be released Monday.
Under the terms of his probation, Wertz is not allowed to possess a firearm, must stay away from Griswold and must not commit any other crimes. If he violates those terms, Wertz could be sentenced to parole under the state’s prison system, according to prosecutors.
Wertz’ lawyer, Reyna Montoya, said she planned to challenge the requirement that he also stay away from the state Capitol in case Griswold is there.