Man Who Threatened Doctor Over Vaccines Gets 6 Months

Texas man referenced his '12-gauge' in message to COVID vaccine advocate Dr. Leana Wen
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2021 3:31 AM CDT
Updated Aug 25, 2022 5:06 AM CDT
Texas Anti-Vaxxer Allegedly Threatens Well-Known Doctor
In this Aug. 14, 2012 file photo, Dr. Leana Wen stands in the emergency department at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, during her medical residency.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Update: A Texas man who who threatened a prominent Maryland doctor over her COVID vaccine advocacy has been sentenced to six months in federal prison. Scott Eli Harris, 52, pleaded guilty in February to threatening former Baltimore health commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. His message to her included racist remarks. "While we are all entitled to our own opinion, no one has the right to threaten the life of someone because of race, national origin, or because of holding different views," US Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron said in a statement. Assistant Federal Public Defender Cynthia A. Frezzo said Harris, a disabled veteran, has expressed "deep and sincere remorse" and has been treated for previously "undiagnosed, service-related mental illness," the AP reports. Our story from Oct. 12, 2021 follows:

Dr. Leana Wen, formerly the Baltimore health commissioner and president of Planned Parenthood and currently a prominent voice speaking out on health policy and public health during the coronavirus pandemic, is a big proponent of the COVID-19 vaccine. Texas' 51-year-old Scott Eli Harris is not—and authorities say he threatened Wen over the issue in July. "Never going to take your wonder drug. My 12-gauge promises I won't," Harris is accused of writing in a text message to Wen, WBAL-TV reports. He also allegedly threatened to shoot Wen, and has been indicted on federal charges of having "knowingly and willingly transmitted in interstate commerce a threat to injure the person of another," NBC News reports.

Authorities say Wen's gender and her history as a Chinese immigrant also played a role in the threatening messages. "I'm a 5th general US Army veteran and a sniper.. I can't wait for the shooting to start.. I hope you are ready," he allegedly wrote, alongside expletives, ethnic slurs, and other offensive language. "Where's your [expletive] office?" The military status he claimed has not been verified. "We take seriously threats and intimidation, and this charge makes clear that such conduct will be prosecuted federally," a Maryland US attorney says. Harris faces up to five years behind bars and a fine of up to $250,000, CBS Baltimore reports. (More COVID-19 stories.)

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