Man charged with threatening Colorado lawmaker due in court

A man accused of threatening a Colorado lawmaker who was pushing for stricter gun control measures is scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday, the same day state senators plan to debate the legislation.

Franklin Sain, 42, is to appear before a Denver judge to be advised of the charges against him.

Prosecutors said the former technology executive sent Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, emails and voicemails intended to intimidate or harass her. Sain, who is white, is charged with attempting to influence a public official and harassment based on ethnicity. Fields, who represents Aurora, where a gunman killed 12 people in a movie theater, is black.

Police said Sain has acknowledged sending Fields emails and messages laced with profanity and racial slurs. In one message, Sain allegedly told Fields he hoped someone would "Gifords" her, an apparent reference to the 2011 shooting and wounding of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, of Arizona. A police affidavit said Sain apologized for his comments.

Sain's attorney, Siddhartha Rathod, said the messages were not criminal.

"Mr. Sain's emails and voicemail to Representative Fields, while deplorable, were not threats," Rathod said in a press release.

Rathod argues that the First Amendment gives Sain the right to voice his opinion, and that the law does not shield public officials from offensive comments.

One anonymous letter that raised particular alarm read: "There Will Be Blood!" and listed Fields and her daughter. The letter hasn't been conclusively linked to Sain.

Colorado is not the only state where lawmakers are fielding angry -- and sometimes threatening -- messages as a result of heated debates over gun restrictions. Earlier this week, an Oregon state senator said she cancelled a town hall meeting about gun control because she had received hostile and threatening emails. A California man suspected of threatening a state senator over a bill limiting the reloading of assault weapons was arrested. And a Minnesota lawmaker sponsoring an assault weapons ban said she has been receiving threatening messages.

If found guilty, Sain could face up to six years in prison.