“Words never hurt anybody.” Like many sayings, this one is false. In fact, words can send you to prison in Texas for years, as a recent media story proves.
A League City man who threatened judges and called in a bomb threat has been arrested and charged with six felonies. The man, identified as Dustin Matthews, faces charges for terroristic threats and obstruction or retaliation. If convicted, he could face a decade in jail, possibly longer.
Phoning in Threats
Everything started on September 8, 2022, when the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office received a phone call a little after 9:00 in the evening. The caller threatened the lives of district judges in Chambers County, and police immediately set to track him down. The next day, the caller phoned in a bomb threat, identifying the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office as the target. And the man called back later that night for a third time, claiming a bomb was at the Chambers County courthouse.
Police took necessary precautions and evacuated the courthouse, where no bomb was found.
Helpfully, police traced the calls to Mr. Matthew, aged 30. He was arrested the next day, September 10, and faces counts of terroristic threat against a judge, terroristic threat causing impairment of public services, and obstruction or retaliation. He has been released on a $1.6 million bond awaiting trial.
A Look at the Criminal Charges
Texas Penal Code § 22.07 is the Terroristic Threat statute. It is a crime to threaten to commit any violent act against a person or their property if done with certain intent, such as:
- Placing someone in fear of immediate and serious bodily injury
- Preventing or interrupting the use of a building or public place
- Impairing or interrupting public services
- Influencing the conduct of a branch or agency of the state or federal government
Although this is usually a Class B misdemeanor, it is a state jail felony if the terroristic threats are made against a judge. It is also a third-degree felony to impair or interrupt public services, such as shutting down the police station or courthouse.
Although people think words are “harmless,” threats like these can send someone to prison for years. In fact, no one must suffer physical injury—instead, simply making the threat is enough.
Mr. Matthew was also charged with Obstruction or Retaliation under Texas Penal Code § 36.06. Under this law, it is a crime to threaten a witness or public official intentionally or knowingly. Threatening a judge because they are a judge is a crime under this law. Generally, Obstruction or Retaliation is a third-degree felony, which can send a defendant to prison for 2-10 years.
Helping Those Who Make Mistakes
One bomb threat or online threat carries serious repercussions. If you’ve been arrested, please contact Tad Nelson & Associates today. We can review your criminal charges and discuss possible defenses. One misjudgment shouldn’t send you to jail for years. One angry social media post shouldn’t result in time in state prison. Call us today to schedule a consultation with a League City criminal defense attorney.