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City man accused of threatening Virginia Beach member of Congress after discussion about pot policy

U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor, seen here in 2016 before his election to Congress, and his staff were threatened by a Virginia Beach man, according to U.S. Capitol police. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE

VIRGINIA BEACH — A city man upset about pot policy is accused of threatening to kill U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor.

Wallace G. Godwin was arrested after he visited the Virginia Beach Republican’s office this past week and threatened staffers and Taylor, according to the criminal complaint. This came after Godwin got upset during a conversation about marijuana policy, a staffer told investigators.

Godwin, 69, is accused of mentioning an event at which Taylor was scheduled to attend this weekend, adding a specific threat of gun violence toward Taylor in his conversation with the representative’s staff.

On Friday, Taylor discussed the incident during a press conference that was later posted to his social media page.

“Quite frankly, the political discourse in our country has risen to levels that are dangerous,” Taylor said. “I think everyone just needs to calm down. We just need to calm down and realize we’re not going to agree on every single issue, and we’re much better to resolve things … peacefully.”

Taylor said he and his staff have had other interactions with Godwin about marijuana policy.

Godwin on social media has advocated enforcing existing drug laws. In June, he filed a civil suit seeking $500 million from the federal government for its failure to enforce such law. The suit went nowhere, but it made Godwin’s position clear.

A fringe right online message board characterized Godwin as a “leftist” and the blog The Gateway Pundit falsely called him a “far left crackpot.” However, Godwin clearly identifies himself in the civil court filing as someone concerned about lax enforcement.

“I am a natural born conservative,” Godwin wrote in his civil suit on a page showing his address and phone number. “Read the Federal law on marijuana. President Nixon ignored the Federal law on marijuana. Marijuana has been altering the minds of the American people since the early ’60s. Check my facts! This is the FACT!”

A passage from Godwin’s 2017 civil suit against the federal government.

Taylor said he supports decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level because such decisions are best left to the states. That was a source of disagreement for Godwin.

“He was opposed to that,” Taylor said.

Godwin threatened to kill and assault Taylor and two members of his staff during a visit to Taylor’s district office at Town Center on Thursday, March 22, according to an affidavit by Special Agent Gerren K. Stith of the U.S. Capitol Police.

The sworn statement was the basis of the arrest warrant against Godwin, as well as the basis of the account that follows.

At about 1:30 p.m., Godwin became frustrated by a discussion about marijuana policy with staff.

“Scott is having an event this Saturday,” he said, according to a statement by a Taylor staffer to an investigator. “I am going to get my shotgun and do something about this. I will just handle this myself.”

The Godwin pointed to the staffers.

“You two are next,” he said.

Taylor was not present during the incident, but he had a prior interaction when Godwin visited Taylor at home to discuss marijuana policy. On Friday, Taylor said that happened in a parking garage at Town Center.

Taylor’s staff told Stith that Godwin in 2017 blocked Taylor’s vehicle with his own car and waited for Taylor to come out. Taylor told Godwin to move, and Godwin got out of his car to talk. Taylor told him again to go. Godwin left.

And in March 2017, Godwin was reported to Capitol Police after he was said to have visited Taylor’s office in Virginia Beach and leaned over a reception desk and yelled “in an aggressive manner frightening to the staff.”

Godwin could face 10 years in prison if he is convicted, though sentences typically are less than the maximum punishment, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Acting Eastern District of Virginia U.S. Attorney Tracy Doherty-McCormick and U.S. Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa announced the charges and arrest in a statement to the news media. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel T. Young will prosecute the matter.

On Friday, March 23, Godwin was order to be held until a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, in Norfolk. A call to his family was not returned. The Federal Public Defender’s office could not be reached for comment this morning.

Godwin is in custody at Western Tidewater Regional Jail, according to an online custody record.

“There should never be threats of violence to elected officials or their staff,” Taylor said Friday. “It’s just unacceptable.”

Taylor said he hoped the charge against Godwin would send “a signal of deterrence,” and he said elected officials should work to show an example of calm character in public discourse.

Wallace Grove Godwin [Western Tidewater Regional Jail]


© 2018 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

The Independent News

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