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Montana man sentenced to federal prison for threatening to kill US Sen. Jon Tester

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man was sentenced Thursday to 2 1/2 years in federal prison for threatening to kill U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in voicemails left at the Democratic lawmaker's office.

Kevin Patrick Smith, of Kalispell, pleaded guilty in April to one count of threats to injure and murder a U.S. senator. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen dismissed a second count as part of a plea agreement.

Smith, 46, made the threats because he was upset with Tester’s political decisions, court records said.

On Jan, 30, Smith made threatening phone calls to Tester’s office. The voicemails included threats to “rip your head off” and were laced with profanity. The caller acknowledged in a recording that he was threatening Tester “on purpose,” court records said. One voicemail challenged Tester to contact the FBI.

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The FBI contacted Smith on Feb. 1 and told him to stop threatening the senator. But 10 days later, the threatening calls resumed, and Smith was arrested Feb. 22, the documents show.

The criminal complaint, which was later replaced by an indictment, said calls from Smith’s phone number to Tester’s office began in late 2022.

Tester is seeking his fourth term in the U.S. Senate. A third-generation farmer and former music teacher, Tester has leaned on a folksy speaking style and populist-themed messages to overcome Republican opponents in each of his last three elections.

A spokesperson for Tester, Harry Child, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.