GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grandville man accused of threatening a state lawmaker’s office has been acquitted.
A jury found Edward Kelman not guilty of one count of malicious use of telecommunication services following a short trial in Grandville District Court Thursday.
The jury took just 15 minutes to acquit Kelman, 66, of the misdemeanor charge.
One juror told News 8 the panel did not believe Kelman’s threat was specific to the alleged victim, an aide to a state legislator.
Instead, the juror said Kelman was angry at the government in general and would have said the same thing to anyone.
The juror, who did not want to be identified, also noted Kelman did not own a gun and had no plan to carry out his alleged threat.
The incident occurred May 4, 2020, four days after heavily armed protestors had entered the state capitol in Lansing during an anti-lockdown rally.
Kelman, who was not at the rally, was angry because, among a long list of perceived wrongs, the government had taken his stimulus check to satisfy a prior debt.
To seek help regarding his stimulus check, Kelman tried to locate a phone number for then-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Laura Cox.
But he mistakenly called Cox’s former legislative office, which now houses the office of State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, a Democrat from Livonia.
The aide who answered Pohutsky’s phone explained to Kelman she could not find Cox’s new number for him because she’s prohibited from performing partisan activities while working for the state on the taxpayers’ dime.
In court Thursday, the aide testified Kelman then told her, “If you think what happened last week in Lansing was bad, wait until I get there next week. I’m polishing up my AR-15, and you won’t have anywhere to hide.”
The legislator’s aide said Kelman’s words prompted a panic attack.
“I immediately started convulsing and having a panic attack,” testified the aide, who was working from home when the call occurred. “I curled up on my bed and I was crying.”
Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Angela Curtis told jurors free speech has limits and threatening someone is not protected.
“She was afraid. She was terrorized. She was frightened. She was in fear for her safety and all she was doing was her job,” Curtis said.
Kelman’s defense attorney argued his client never had any intention of following through on the alleged threat.
In his opening statement Thursday, defense attorney Ryan Keast said Kelman, who does not own a gun nor a car, was “just blowing off steam.”
“He’s an older guy with some zany political beliefs,” Keast told the jury.
In court, Curtis played 20 minutes of Kelman’s interview with Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Casey Trucks.
In it, Kelman listed myriad grievances against the state and used racial slurs while complaining about the level of government support African American women receive after giving birth.
“(The U.S.) is turning into a socialist country,” Kelman said in the state police interview. “The government has gotten far too involved in our business … Something’s got to happen.”
The juror who spoke with News 8 said Kelman was “just that type of person.”
Following the verdict, Pohutsky issued a statement saying she was “saddened” Kelman was found not guilty.
“I am saddened to learn that Kelman was found not guilty of the violent threat he made against my office. This verdict sets a dangerous precedent that the next time someone is unhappy with the government, all they have to do is call a legislator and threaten them to get what they want without repercussions. The increased number of attacks and armed intimidation we have witnessed since April 2020 will continue to rise now that people see that the courts will find someone innocent of threatening others as long as they say they didn’t actually mean it. No matter what the outcome was today, that phone call caused my staff and me to fear for our lives. I hope people will remember that a real person was on the receiving end of that threat and that will be enough to stop someone from doing the same in the future.”Rep. Laurie Pohutsky