WASHINGTON — A man charged with threatening to kill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and bringing multiple guns and what he allegedly described as a “shit ton” of ammunition to Washington, DC, last week will be kept in custody while his case goes forward.
Cleveland Meredith Jr. is facing one felony charge of making interstate threats and two misdemeanor gun possession charges. Prosecutors revealed on Wednesday that he had also threatened to kill DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. US Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey ruled at a hearing on Thursday afternoon that there was no combination of release conditions for Meredith that would ensure the safety of the community.
“If I have had a more concerning threats case come before me, I don’t remember it,” Harvey said. Of Meredith’s texts, the judge said: “They are numerous. They are graphic. They are at a level of intensity that is of a concern to the court.”
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Meredith arrived too late to participate in the assault on the Capitol last week, according to charging papers — the documents quote text messages where he appears to describe being delayed because of problems with his truck — but he allegedly had multiple guns and ammunition with him when he did arrive in DC and continued to send texts threatening violence.
In court on Thursday, a federal prosecutor argued that Meredith posed a danger to the community and that “the misogynistic and violent rhetoric” in his texts are “horrific and essentially unparalleled”; Meredith’s lawyer had argued his messages threatening to kill Pelosi and inflict violence on others in Washington were meant as jokes to friends.
The US attorney’s office in Washington has announced federal charges against more than 40 people in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol. Some defendants charged with illegally entering the Capitol have been released after making their first post-arrest court appearance and pending their next court date; the defendants granted temporary release so far include a man photographed carrying Pelosi’s lectern (her office said it never left the building), a newly elected member of the West Virginia House of Delegates who was recorded on video as he entered the Capitol shouting “We’re in, we’re in!”, and a man who allegedly repeatedly punched a US Capitol Police officer. Judges are imposing travel restrictions on people they’ve allowed to go free for now.
According to charging papers, Meredith had sent a text message on Jan. 7 that stated, “Thinking about heading over to Pelosi CUNT’s speech and putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV” with a purple devil emoji. He’d arrived in Washington on Jan. 6, the same day as the violent insurrection at the US Capitol, but got to the city too late to attend the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the attack.
On Jan. 7, FBI agents found Meredith at a hotel in southwest DC, and he agreed to let them search his room and his truck. Agents found a Glock 19 handgun, an assault rifle, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, according to an affidavit filed in court. He was arrested and on Jan. 8, Harvey ordered him temporarily held in jail pending Thursday’s hearing on whether he should stay behind bars while his case goes forward.
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Federal prosecutors had argued in favor of keeping Meredith in custody. In a court filing on Wednesday, they highlighted the allegations that he’d traveled to Washington with multiple firearms and ammunition, and revealed new details about Meredith’s communications leading up to his arrest, including text messages also threatening to kill Bowser and commit other acts of violence once he arrived in Washington.
His messages allegedly included:
“I’m so ready to FK SOME TRAITORS UP.”
“I’m gonna collect a shit ton of Traitors heads.”
“I may wander over to the Mayor’s office and put a 5.56 in her skull, FKG cunt.”
“I predict that within the next 12 days, many in our country will die.”
Prosecutors argued Meredith was a danger to the community, telling the judge that he was a “habitual user of marijuana,” had a history of mental illness, and “evinces a strong antipathy towards law enforcement and leaders of this city and nation.”
“A clearly disturbed, deranged, and dangerous individual that fantasizes about committing horrific acts of violence and takes countless steps to carry them out by driving across several states with a trailer stocked with thousands of rounds of ammunition and multiple firearms — including an assault style rifle — should not remain in the community,” prosecutors wrote.
At Thursday’s hearing, Assistant US Attorney Ahmed Baset told the judge that Meredith separately had been involved in a violent road rage incident in Washington on Jan. 7, and had used a racial slur against bystanders. Baset also said that the government believed Meredith was “under the spell” of QAnon, a collective delusion that claims Trump is fighting a cabal of Satan-worshipping elites.
Meredith's lawyer, Ubong Akpan, a federal public defender in Washington, argued for his release. She wrote in a memo to the court on Jan. 13 that the felony charge Meredith faced of making threats didn’t qualify as a “crime of violence” that made him eligible to be kept in custody — Harvey announced on Thursday that he disagreed with that — and noted that Meredith had no previous convictions.
Paul McLeod contributed to this story.