• E.S.
Charles Alan Wilson, a slim 63-year-old man with graying red hair and ruddy, sun-spotted skin, was first on the docket this morning at the federal courthouse in Yakima. Accused of threatening to kill Senator Patty Murray over her vote in favor of the health care reform bill, Wilson entered the courtroom of Magistrate Judge James P. Hutton wearing a green prison jump-suit and leg irons. A short time later, he left as an about-to-be-free man.

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During the hearing, U.S. government attorney Robert Ellis asked Judge Hutton to detain Wilson until a scheduled April 21 hearing in Seattle "given the nature of his threats." Those threats were allegedly delivered in numerous voice mail messages left at Murray's office calling her a "Pike Street fucking whore" who has a target on her back and telling her, among other things: "You better watch your fucking back, baby, because there’s people gonna come after you with fucking both fucking barrels, bitch." Ellis noted that after the FBI arrested Wilson on Tuesday, agents searched his property and found an unloaded pistol in his Bronco, plus two .22 caliber rifles inside his home. "The level of rage reported in those phone calls is troublesome," Ellis told Judge Hutton.

Rick Hoffman, the attorney for Wilson, argued that his client had cooperated completely with authorities, surrendered his weapons willingly, and was not a flight risk. He described Wilson as a lifelong resident of Yakima County who "has very seldom been even out of Yakima County, or Eastern Washington, and even then it was only for a brief period of time." Willson, Hoffman added, has no passport and "no significant criminal history"—save for a DUI arrest in 1970. "A direct reading of the trancripts," Hoffman said, "would suggest that there might be some voicing of some... violent suggestion." But, he added, "even if we presume that, there is no indication that Mr. Wilson proceeded in any way to act upon or act out in any way anything that might be perceived as a threat."

Wilson's younger sister, Helen Evans of Yakima, was in the courtroom along with one of Wilson's sons, Charles Jr., who lives in Seattle. Attorney Hoffman pointed out that these family members and others who know Wilson have never heard him make violent threats before. "Mr. Wilson is not a person who's going to create any problems if he's out of custody," Hoffman said.

Judge Hutton, who enforced a rule barring cameras and electronic recording equipment from the courtroom, ultimately agreed. "This is clearly a serious charge," he said, adding that "the criminal complaint, I suppose, speaks volumes." Judge Hutton also conceded that the complaint recounts Wilson making "collateral remarks that I suppose could be considered as threats against other public officials." (Presumably he was referring to remarks such as "I hope somebody kills you, and I hope somebody kills [the President].")

But, noting that Wilson seems not to be a flight risk and appears to have strong family support in community—plus "some serious medical issues that need attention from time to time"—Judge Hutton ordered Wilson released on a $20,000 bond put up by his sister. He also ordered Wilson not to engage in any legal offenses of any kind, stay within the confines of the court's Eastern Washington jurisdiction (except for during his upcoming Seattle hearing), submit to electronic monitoring, and observe a "home curfew" from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily. Also: No contact of any kind with political officials, no alcohol, and no prescription medications without a doctor's prescription.

After the hearing, Wilson's brother in law, David Hill, said he couldn't explain the allegations against Wilson. "He used to be a drinker, but he's not anymore," Hill told me. As for Wilson's "serious medical issues," Hill said they are not mental health issues, but "more physical, from the years he was a carpenter." His younger sister, Helen Evans, a human resources manager, told me she will now be keeping a close eye on her brother. "That's what families are for," she said.

Wilson has been associated with the Yakima branch of the Tea Party, so I asked Evans if she herself is drawn to the movement. "No," she said emphatically. "I want to make that very clear."

Wilson—who said little at the hearing except his name and "No, sir"—is to be freed later today, as soon as his bond paperwork is processed.