Navy veteran who allegedly threatened to kill six members of Congress is denied bail

The U.S. Capitol Building, on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Josie Albertson-Grove

The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester

The Amherst man charged with leaving voicemails threatening to kill six members of Congress and their staff was denied bail Thursday, with a U.S. District Court judge writing that the man was a flight risk and a danger to the community.

Ryder Winegar, a 33-year-old stay-at-home father and Navy veteran, has pleaded not guilty to the charge that he made threats against members of Congress.

Police and prosecutors have not said which members of Congress were threatened.

In a series of voicemails left after midnight Dec. 16 at congressional offices and laden with racist and homophobic slurs and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Capitol Police say Winegar threatened to kill six members of Congress if they did not support former President Donald Trump’s efforts to stay in office after President Joe Biden won the 2020 election.

“Donald Trump is your president. If you don’t get behind him, we’re going to hang you until you die,” Capitol Police said Winegar said in one voicemail. “That goes for all you aides too.”

“If you don’t support it, we’re going to drag you out and we’re going to hang you by your neck to die,” he allegedly said in one message. “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,” Winegar is alleged to have said in another.

Winegar left six such voicemails at Congressional offices that night.

Capitol Police say these calls were made from his wife’s cell phone, and said Winegar identified himself in some of the messages.

Winegar’s attorney did not return a phone call Thursday afternoon.

In her order to jail Winegar, U.S. District Court Judge Andrea K. Johnstone wrote that the erratic messages, Winegar’s access to firearms, and shifting story about why he flew to Brazil the day after Capitol Police knocked on his door, contributed to her decision that he is a flight risk and a danger.

The judge’s order says Winegar’s voicemails were an attempt to make members of Congress afraid for their lives if they did not support a particular cause — to make the members of Congress believe Winegar would kill for political ends.

This was dangerous, she said, not just for the people threatened, but for the rule of law in the United States.

“Such threats seek to undermine the rule of law and disrupt the proper functioning of our government,” Johnstone wrote in the order. She said the voicemails, and a similar threat emailed to a New Hampshire state legislator, might point to an “increasing level of unrestrained, impulsive, threatening behavior.”

A few days after police said Winegar left the voicemails, two Capitol Police officers knocked on his door. Winegar declined to speak with them, according to one officer’s affidavit. The next day, Winegar flew to Brazil and stayed there until he turned himself in to police three weeks later.

When Capitol Police came back to Winegar’s Amherst home, his wife initially said she did not know when he would be back from Brazil. According to the judge’s order, Winegar’s attorney told the court that Winegar was considering relocation to Brazil once the family sold its Amherst house.

Johnstone wrote that the Brazil trip showed Winegar had the ability to quickly access money, which “could be utilized to abscond.”

Johnstone also wrote that Winegar’s ties to Amherst, and the buildings in Manchester he owns, were “outweighed” by Winegar’s stated willingness to uproot his family and move to Brazil.

Winegar had asked to be released to live at home under the supervision of his wife. But Johnstone wrote that because Winegar’s wife works outside the home, there would be long periods when there would be no one to supervise Winegar. The house had also been put up for sale.

And, she wrote, Winegar was living at home with his wife and children when he was alleged to have made the threatening calls.

Winegar had also offered to give up his passport and his wife’s passport, and put up his Amherst house and two Manchester properties to secure his appearance in court. Johnstone said she was not convinced any conditions of release could make Winegar less dangerous, so she ordered him held pending trial.

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