Alabama man pleads guilty to threatening Fulton DA, sheriff over Trump case

A 58-year-old insurance salesman pleaded guilty Tuesday to making threatening phone calls to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Sheriff Patrick Labat regarding the criminal investigation into former president Donald Trump.

“I made a stupid phone call,” Arthur Ray Hanson II, of Huntsville, Ala., told a federal judge. “I’m not a violent person.”

At Tuesday’s plea hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bret Hobson said Hanson called the Fulton County Government customer service line on Aug. 6 — a week before Trump’s indictment — at 11:25 a.m. and first left a voicemail for Labat, which lasted about a minute and a half.

“If you think you gonna take a mugshot of my President Donald Trump and it’s gonna be ok, you gonna find out that after you take that mugshot, some bad (expletive)’s probably gonna happen to you,” Hanson said in the voicemail, among other threatening statements.

The voicemail also said, “I’m warning you right now before you (expletive) up your life and get hurt real bad.”

Fulton County Sheriff Patrick "Pat" Labat is shown in advance of the August 2023 indictment of former President Donald Trump. (Katelyn Myrick/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

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Five minutes later, Hanson again called the customer service line and left a voicemail for Willis.

“I would be very afraid if I were you because you can’t be around people all the time that are going to protect you; there’s going to be moments when you’re going to be vulnerable,” Hanson said in the message, according to court records.

“When you charge Trump on that fourth indictment, anytime you’re alone, be looking over your shoulder,” he continued.

U.S. Magistrate Regina Cannon asked Hansen if that’s what he said.

“I guess,” Hanson answered.

Without missing a beat, Cannon told Hanson that “I guess” was not going to cut it. When she asked him again if that’s what he said, Hanson responded, “Yes, ma’am.”

When interviewed by the FBI, Willis said she had received several threatening messages regarding her prosecution of Trump, Hobson said, but that Hanson’s voicemail stood out because of the mention of her family.

As a result of the calls, Willis had security posted around her daughter’s home, and Labat increased his security detail to 24 hours a day, Hobson said.

In a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the hearing, Willis said that she appreciates the work of the FBI and U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan’s office in investigating the case.

“I thank them for valuing the life of an African American woman who is serving as the Fulton County District Attorney, and sending a message that targeting government officials for doing their jobs is unacceptable and will be prosecuted,” she said.

Labat also said in a statement it is “inconceivable” that Hanson felt entitled and empowered to threaten him simply for doing his job as sheriff.

“I am pleased that he has taken responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty,” Labat said. “I have trusted the federal judicial system to see this case through and hope this outcome serves as a warning to anyone else that might want to take similar actions.”

The maximum sentence for the single felony count of making threats over interstate phone calls is five years in prison. But Hobson told Cannon the government would be recommending that Hanson receive credit and a more lenient sentence for accepting responsibility.

A hiccup in the plea hearing occurred when Hanson disagreed with Hobson’s account that Hanson had acknowledged to FBI agents that his phone calls were threatening.

Cannon allowed for a recess and when court reconvened, Hanson agreed that the government could prove the elements of the crime.

“I never dreamed the FBI would show up at my house,” Hanson said. “...I didn’t knowingly know I was threatening anybody. To me, it was a warning.”

Hanson said he made the phone calls because he was angry. He said he was upset about the “whole political narrative” and he made the calls to make officials back off of Trump.

“I’m not a law breaker,” he said. “I just lost it.”

Hanson is allowed to remain out on bond as the case proceeds. His sentencing will be presided over by U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee at a later date.