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U.S. Attorney for Arizona Gary Restaino says threat cases are on the rise

Gary Restaino
U.S. Justice Department
Gary Restaino

The top federal prosecutor in Arizona says there has been a rise in the number of threat cases both locally and nationally.

A Bullhead City man is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 25 for leaving voicemails in January 2021 promising to kill the U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Gary Restaino, the new U.S. attorney for Arizona, said when a person is accused of making threats, their political and religious beliefs don’t factor into the case. Federal prosecutors study intent, context and if a promise to hurt another was made conditionally.

“We really need better civil dialogue with each other. And we need better civics education so people can understand how government works and why government is good,” said Restaino.

Arizona's top federal prosecutor declined comment on the case of Steven Martis. Court records describe the Bullhead City man as a disabled, Trump-backing Vietnam veteran.

Before Restaino was confirmed, an Arizona jury convicted Martis of making death threats against Pelosi.

Hear Matthew Casey’s interview with host Lauren Gilger on The Show

restaino-show-lg-mc-20220208.mp3

Restaino said he has focused on listening to others in his first few months on the job.

But one early move he made was to transfer a position from the criminal division to the civil unit. The reason is so he can hire a lawyer to focus on civil rights issues in Arizona, such as housing access and disability rights.

“I’m sure we will consult with the community here in Arizona as well to figure out what areas are best for us to focus on,” he said.

Restaino envisions taking a holistic approach to protecting individual freedoms.

His office can also handle criminal civil rights cases, which he said is an area of law that has often been underserved by prosecuting agencies.

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Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.