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NASHUA – A man who once claimed to be God has become the first person to be convicted under a new state law lowering the threshold for what can be considered a threat against public officials.
Michael Rezk, 44, will face up to seven additional years in prison for threatening to kill a Rockingham County Superior Court judge last September. In a single-day jury trial this week, prosecutors only needed to show a threat was made. Because of the new law, there was no burden to prove the threat was also meant to "terrorize."
It was always illegal to threaten a public official, but what was in the past generally considered a misdemeanor in most cases was also upgraded under the new law to a Class B felony. The change makes jail time more likely for those convicted of threatening the current and former governors, legislators, judges and a variety of other public officials and their families -- even if the public official has no reasonable fear for his or her safety.
"This is a new addition to the criminal code," said Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young. "It's a new crime."
Rezk's legal woes stem from an armed robbery attempt in 2001 where he threatened to kill an elderly man. In September 2002, Rezk was found guilty and sentenced to 231/2 years in prison for felonious use of a firearm, receiving stolen property and attempted burglary.
During sentencing on his earlier crimes, Rezk, who represented himself and spun around in his chair laughing while prosecutors presented their case, was asked what he thought his punishment should be.
"Freedom," he said, but was told that was not an option.
"Short of that -- death," said Rezk. "You either give me death or I'm going to give you death."
He asked if Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Kenneth McHugh followed the sun and the moon, which he referred to as father and son.
"You don't follow the moon and so it's over. I'm going to take your life in 12 days," Rezk said at the time.
Those statements came before the new law was enacted; Rezk was not charged at the time.
A year later, the state Supreme Court heard an appeal on Rezk's case before overturning parts of his conviction and remanding the case back to the Superior Court. During his second Superior Court sentencing last September, Rezk wrote he would kill Judge McHugh if the judge did not drop charges stemming from the 2001 armed robbery attempt. That most recent threat was the basis of Tuesday's trial, according to Young.
Rezk's case was heard in Hillsborough County Superior Court South to provide an unbiased trial, said Young, because McHugh still sits in Rockingham. It was prosecuted by the state attorney general's office, another mandate of the new law.
Rezk is incarcerated at the State Prison for Men in Concord. While he has not yet been sentenced for his most recent infraction, he faces a possible parole date of Sept. 21, 2014, and a maximum release date of May 18, 2034, according to the Department of Corrections.
A Litchfield man will become the second test of the new law after being indicted this month by a grand jury for threatening the family of Nashua District Court Judge Thomas Bamberger.
Timothy Keddie, 50, was arrested on June 27 by Litchfield police for failure to appear at a civil hearing in Nashua District Court on an arrest warrant signed by Bamberger. While he was being booked, Keddie looked at the order with the judge's signature and allegedly said he was going to rape Bamberger's wife and children. Keddie is awaiting trail in Hillsborough County Superior Court South, the same court Rezk was convicted in this week.
"It is imperative that our judges are free to make decisions based on what is just without being influenced or retaliated against," said Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte in a written statement.
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