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Detroit man who threatened Michigan governor, secretary of state sentenced to 15 months probation

DETROIT (AP) — A 60-year-old Detroit man will serve 15 months of probation after threatening to kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

James Toepler was sentenced Tuesday under a specialized mental health treatment court, the Michigan Attorney General’s office said Wednesday in a release.

He also was ordered to have no contact with Whitmer or Benson, and to have no contact with their offices, no malicious contact with 911 emergency response services or Secretary of State branch offices.

Toepler pleaded no contest in September in 36th District Court in Detroit to one count of malicious use of telecommunications services. The threats to kill Whitmer, Benson and others were made June 23, 2021, in a telephone call to the Detroit Police Department’s 911 Call Center.

Toepler is to report Nov. 1 to the specialized mental health treatment court where appropriate treatment will be determined. The court will supervise his probation and oversee the completion of his treatment, the attorney general’s office said.

“I appreciate the mental health treatment court’s role in assessing and treating convicted residents who commit crimes from a place of mental unwellness,” Nessel said. “Specialized courts across the state do an excellent job of providing evidence-based intervention strategies and aim to put offenders on a stable footing to find success post-sentencing.”

Whitmer and Benson are Democrats. Whitmer was the target of a kidnapping scheme in 2020. Nine people were convicted at trial or pleaded guilty. Five were acquitted.

In August, a man dressed in black who works for a group specializing in opposition research about Democrats was stopped while climbing a bluff near Whitmer’s summer residence, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press.

The man, whose name was redacted in the document, said he worked as a “political tracker” and that he was “climbing the hill to get a ‘view up here'” when he was stopped Aug. 26.

The Associated Press