LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The mother of a 30-year-old Michigan man who’s accused of making death threats against Democratic politicians is now charged with lying when she purchased firearms later found in her son’s possession.
Threats against public officials have become increasingly common in Michigan in recent years. A plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was broken up by the FBI in 2020, and prosecutors have so far secured nine convictions in the case in state and federal courts.
The charges unsealed Tuesday against Michelle Berka, 56, come after her son Randall Berka II was arrested in March and charged with illegally possessing guns. Federal prosecutors say he made death threats on social media against the president and governor, as well as people in the LGBTQ community.
Authorities say Michelle Berka knowingly lied when she bought five guns that were eventually given to another person, according to an indictment unsealed in federal court Tuesday and first reported by The Detroit News. While the indictment dated Aug. 2 does not name who Berka gave the firearms to, her son was arrested with four of the same firearms in March.
Randall Berka II — who lives with his parents — is accused of having written on a YouTube channel that “biden deserves to die,” a reference to President Joe Biden, and that he was “more than willing tot kill whitmer,” a reference to the governor.
Randall Berka II was involuntarily committed for mental health care in 2012 and declared incapacitated, which bars him from possessing guns or ammunition, the FBI said.
In March, Michelle Berka told the FBI that her son “scared” her and that he should be arrested and put in prison because she “does not think the mental health treatment is working,” according to a complaint. At the time, the FBI said Michelle Berka had purchased three long guns and one handgun for her son.
She faces up to 10 years in federal prison if she is convicted. Bryan Sherer, a federal public defender listed as representing Michelle Berka, could not be reached by phone for comment on Wednesday.
Another Michigan man, Jack Carpenter III, was arrested in February and accused of threatening to kill state government officials who are Jewish. He was indicted in March on a hate crime charge.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June made it more difficult to convict a person of making a violent threat, including against the president or other elected officials. The Biden administration had warned that the case could affect the ability to prosecute threats against public officials, which have increased in recent years.