A woman who prosecutors said sent a threatening letter to Senator Susan Collins’s home in Maine in October 2018 because she was upset with her vote to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh as a justice on the Supreme Court was sentenced on Thursday to two and a half years in prison.
The woman, Suzanne Muscara, 38, of Burlington, Maine, who was convicted during a daylong trial in November of mailing a threatening communication, will also have to complete three years of supervised release after finishing her prison term, Judge Lance E. Walker of U.S. District Court in Maine ruled.
The letter to Ms. Collins, a Republican, was intercepted at the U.S. Postal Service mail-sorting facility in Hampden, Maine, on Oct. 17, 2018, less than two weeks after Mr. Kavanaugh was confirmed as a justice, according to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint against Ms. Muscara.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maine, Ms. Muscara was arrested in April 2019 after her fingerprint was identified on an envelope that contained a white powder that was later determined to be starch.
The envelope also contained a letter that had a cartoon drawing of Ms. Collins depicting her as a stick figure with X’s for eyes. The word “AnthRAX!!!” and “HA HA HA!!!” were also written on the letter. (The Postal Service had been monitoring mail to the senator because of a piece of threatening mail that had been received at her home on Oct. 15.)
Ms. Muscara told F.B.I. agents that she did not believe her letter would be taken seriously, according to the affidavit.
“American politics is premised on free speech and vigorous debate,” Halsey Frank, the U.S. attorney for Maine, said in a statement after the sentencing. “True threats are not protected speech. They are a crime. Anthrax is a deadly substance that has been used to kill and terrorize. There is nothing funny about it, and the jury in this case rejected the defendant’s claim that her letter was intended as a joke.”
James S. Nixon, the public defender who represented Ms. Muscara, did not immediately return messages requesting comment on Friday evening.
Ms. Muscara had faced a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine. She has been incarcerated since her arrest and will receive credit for the 18 months of her confinement, Andrew McCormack, an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Maine, said in an interview on Friday.
In a statement, Christopher Knight, a spokesman for Ms. Collins, said: “Senator Collins and her husband, Tom Daffron, are grateful for the vigilance of the postal inspectors and the employees at the Hampden processing center and at the Bangor Post Office who quickly intercepted the letter and the extraordinary professionalism and effective investigative work of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers.”
The sentencing came amid a string of threats to elected officials and candidates across the country during this election cycle.
In March, a Connecticut man was arrested on charges that he made threats to Representative Adam Schiff of California through his congressional website. The same month, a Texas man was charged with making death threats against Speaker Nancy Pelosi on his Facebook page.
In June, a Mississippi man was charged with threatening Representative Bennie Thompson and his staff members. And this month the F.B.I. arrested more than a dozen right-wing extremists whom they accused of plotting to kidnap and murder Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.