In the “blasphemous voicemail,” Huelsman also said he hoped Gaetz “died in a shallow grave,” according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida.
U.S. District Court Judge T. Kent Wetherell II, appointed by President Donald Trump, delivered the sentence in a roughly 90-minute hearing Thursday afternoon, court records show. Wetherell also ordered Huelsman to serve five years of probation and pay a $10,000 fine, records show.
Huelsman has worked as a critically acclaimed camera operator in Hollywood and on high-profile television productions, earning five Emmy nominations for his work on NBC’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” according to databases in line. Huelsman was previously investigated for threatening a family member of a former president, prosecutors said.
Huelsman “lost his entire job” following his arrest last year, defense attorney Curtis Fallgatter said.
Prosecutors did not recommend a specific sentence for Huelsman, while the defense requested a “probation-like” sentence, Fallgatter said in an interview Thursday night. The judge calculated the sentencing guideline range for Huelsman to be between 10 and 16 months, Fallgatter said, although judges are not required to hand down a sentence within that range.
Fallgatter said his client’s angry message toward Gaetz was prompted by a wave of emotion sparked by the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021.
“The timing is exactly why he did it,” Fallgatter told POLITICO. “You saw the news. You saw people attacking the Capitol, and it’s just outrageous, and a lot of people got angry and that’s what happened to Huelsman. …He’s seen all the supportive comments from Gaetz saying they’re good people. … That’s what prompted the case.
Huelsman is “very sorry and remorseful” about the threats, the defense attorney said.
Court records show Fallgatter was introduced a series of exhibitions during sentencing, such as news reports reporting on Gaetz’s legal woes, including the ongoing investigation into allegations that he was part of a group of politically connected men who paid underage girls for sexual relations.
Gaetz vehemently denied having sex with an underage person and he has not been charged with a crime. He admitted to sometimes paying travel expenses for female companions, but denounced the federal investigation into sex trafficking as a political vendetta. At the time of Huelsman’s arrest last year, Gaetz also publicly complained that Justice Department prosecutors were dragging their feet in the threat investigation because he is an outspoken Republican.
Articles that Huelsman’s defense presented during sentencing describe Gaetz’s request for a pardon from Trump, Gaetz’s refusal to be interviewed by the House Select Committee on Jan. 6, and Gaetz’s comments during a conservative conference on Saturday suggesting that many abortion rights advocates are unattractive. .
“We said that was a factor in why Gaetz is such a magnet that people are so mad at him,” Fallgatter said.
However, Fallgatter said Judge didn’t really buy it.
“The judge was frankly not impressed with that,” the defense attorney said. “All of them were completely irrelevant to the judge.”
Thursday’s sentencing was part of a series of cases that Attorney General Merrick Garland has vowed to pursue aggressively, as harsh political rhetoric appears to encourage some people to cross the line from spiteful debate to outright threats.
“Free speech is at the heart of our democracy,” U.S. Attorney Jason Coody said after sentencing. “However, the communication of threats of physical violence, in this case by someone who had previously made and been investigated for similar threats of violence, is clearly illegal. … Today’s sentencing recognizes the defendant’s repeated threats of violence and should have a significant deterrent effect on those who would threaten to use violence against others rather than engage in legal debate .”