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Threat to state senator traced

TBI says imprisoned murderer sent letter to frame another inmate
2-13-2007 Tennessee:

NASHVILLE - A threatening letter sent to state Sen. Tim Burchett's legislative office has been traced to an imprisoned murderer who was trying to have another inmate blamed, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman said Monday.

The three-page letter, written in large block print and laced with obscenities, purported to be from a convicted sex offender - who provided his name, prison identification number and expected release date - saying he was "sick and tired of seeing (Burchett) on the news talking about child molesters."

The letter at one point threatened to kill Burchett, a Knoxville Republican, unless he sent $100,000 to an address that would be supplied later. Later in the letter, however, the writer said, "I change my mind! I am still going to kill you anyway!!"

There were also threats against a former district attorney general and a declaration that the writer would "rape and torture" children.

Burchett has sponsored numerous bills in the past and present that would enhance penalties for child abusers and molesters and make it easier to prosecute them.

He said the language used in the letter raised concerns of his staff, and he decided to ask the TBI to investigate. The letter referred to Burchett's home address.

Jennifer Johnson, spokeswoman for the TBI, said the agency established that the name used in the letter was indeed that of an inmate at Northeast Correctional Complex who was a child sex offender.

"We were able to determine it (the letter) was not from that inmate but another inmate in (prison) for murder," she said. "They had some kind of a dispute, and he (the murderer) was doing that to get back at the other, trying to frame him, I guess, for lack of a better word," she said.

She declined to release the inmate's name, saying he had not been charged with a crime. The area district attorney general's office, she said, had decided against prosecution of an inmate "with something like 50 years still left on his sentence."

"Anything we charged him with would be far less than he's already facing," Johnson said. "He was incapable of making good on the threat, and it seems to us the whole thing stems from a dispute with another inmate rather than any effort to actually get at the senator."

Still, she said Burchett was wise to contact the TBI because the threat "could have been something serious."

Burchett praised the TBI's handling of the matter. The senator said he "alerted some friends who could take care of business" living near his home about the letter, but otherwise took no special precautions.

He said "maybe a dozen" threats of one sort or another have been made against him since his election to the Legislature, though none that have caused a serious concern. ..more.. by TOM HUMPHREY

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