A decorated Navy veteran has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he threatened to kill six members of Congress last month if they failed to “get behind Donald Trump,” his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Ryder Winegar, 33, of Amherst, was arrested Monday, less than a week after the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, according to a statement by Scott Murray, the top federal prosecutor in New Hampshire.
Nashua lawyer Chuck Keefe stressed that the allegations against Winegar involve telephone calls that took place three weeks before the violence at the Capitol. No allegations have been made that Winegar took part in those events, Keefe said.
“He looks forward to resolving this matter as soon as possible and getting back to his family,” Keefe said. He said Winegar is an honorably discharged Navy veteran who is married and has two children.
Winegar appeared before a federal magistrate Tuesday and was ordered jailed pending a detention hearing scheduled for Thursday at noon in U.S. District Court in Concord. Charges of making threats against members of Congress are punishable by fines or imprisonment or both.
According to court documents, Winegar left voicemail messages on Dec. 16 and 17 at the offices of six unnamed members of Congress in Washington. In several of the messages, Winegar identified himself by name or left his phone number, officials said. He also said he was a Navy veteran.
In one message, the voicemail said, “I got some advice for you. Here’s the advice — Donald Trump is your president. If you don’t get behind him, we’re going to hang you until you die.”
“That goes for all you aides too,” Winegar allegedly said in one message. “You think, ‘I’m just an aide, I’m not going to be hung.’ No, no, no, no, no, no, no. You’re right. You’re not going to be hung, we’re just going to execute you summarily because you’re not worth televising.”
In another message, according to court documents, Winegar said, “How is there a pandemic when 99.9% of people survive? Huh? It seems like you don’t understand what the ---- a pandemic is. You better get behind Donald Trump or we’re going to hang you, and I’m going to laugh...”
Another voice mail stated, “I’ve seen everything going along in the media these days, and quite, quite honestly, I’m very scared for our Republic.”
According to another voicemail, an official identified in documents as Congress Member 3 “needs to back our president, Donald Trump, and recognize that the Democrats and the Democratic Party and the Chinese communist party have been attacking our country and attacking our free elections.
“And so if you don’t stand up for this, really, I think, you know, I’m not only going to have to register as a Republican in the future, but I might have to come and hang you personally, like until you die, and all of your aides, including you, who are listening to this right now, like some 24 year old, uh, from Arizona named Chase or some gay name like that.
“Do the right thing or patriots are going to come, and we’re going to ----ing kill you all.”
Online property listings shows that Winegar and his family live in a $339,000, two-story Colonial home in Amherst.
Keefe would not identify Winegar’s profession. He said his client, who was born and raised in New Hampshire, has no criminal history and has never sought public office.
Winegar has yet to be formally indicted, Keefe said. He is open to a quick resolution if it is in Winegar’s best interest.
“The allegation against my client is that he made phone calls to various people. There are no allegations other than that,” he said.
Keefe said he wants prosecutors and judges — and jurors if the case goes to trial — to focus on the facts and Winegar’s background, not recent events.
According to court documents, special agents with the Capitol Police went to Winegar’s home on Dec. 20 to interview him and rang the front doorbell at his residence twice.
A man whom police identified as Winegar looked out the window before coming to the door. Police said that after they identified themselves, Winegar said he wasn’t “interested in talking to you, get off my property.”