The Tucson man who left threatening voicemails with the office of U.S. Rep. Martha McSally last year was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in federal prison.
Steve Martan, 58, told U.S. District Court Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson he had no intention of carrying out the threats, which were played for the courtroom at the sentencing hearing.
Among the less-graphic threats made in the expletive-laden voicemails, Martan was heard saying he just bought ammunition and warned McSally to “stay indoors.” He also told her to “be careful when you come back to Tucson because we hate you here,” and said he “can’t wait to pull the trigger.”
FBI agents arrested Martan in May 2017 after tracing to his phone three voicemails left at McSally’s office on May 2 and May 10. Three more threatening voicemails left May 4 were discovered later, court records show.
Martan pleaded guilty to three counts of threatening to assault and murder a U.S. official with intent to impede the official’s duties and to retaliate against an official for the performance of the official’s duties.
The criminal complaint stated Martan told agents he was venting frustrations with McSally’s congressional votes in support of the president of the United States.
Martan told Jorgenson he “wasn’t thinking straight” when he made the threats and he was “appalled by my actions.”
Defense lawyer Walter Goncalves Jr. said the threats were “uncharacteristic” of Martan. Goncalves described him as a “pacifist” who never owned a gun.
Martan’s mistake was allowing his anger over McSally’s political choices to be mixed with alcohol, Goncalves said. Since his arrest, he has not consumed any alcohol and he has undergone anger-management counseling.
Federal prosecutor Angela Woolridge asked for a sentence of 24 months in prison. She accused Martan of minimizing the impact of his threats by saying he wouldn’t carry them out.
“That misses the point,” Woolridge said, noting the threats were retaliation for McSally’s political choices and amounted to “an assault on our form of government.”
The threats included having the means to kill McSally, such as buying ammunition, Woolridge said. The fact that Martan knew when McSally was in Tucson showed the threats were “very thought out.”
McSally represents Congressional District 2, the same district served by then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and seriously wounded in a mass shooting on Jan. 8, 2011, on the northwest side. Six people were killed and 13 wounded in the attack.
Woolridge read a letter McSally submitted to the court, which said the threats had a “significant impact” on her, her family and her staff.
In her letter, McSally noted the mass shooting “added weight” to the seriousness of the threats. She also said some of her staffers had worked with Gabe Zimmerman, who died in the 2011 shooting.
McSally asked the court to sentence Martan to prison, saying the threats were “tantamount to an act of political intimidation” and “represents a threat to our form of government.”
McSally wrote that she met with Martan five months after the threats were made. She left that meeting “disappointed and sad.”
She forgave Martan, but did not see any major changes in his attitude. Martan told McSally he thought she often received threats, McSally wrote.
Goncalves said Martan was naive in thinking other people made those kinds of phone calls to politicians.
Martan already has been punished by the case, Goncalves said, such as resigning from his job at a school and facing a felony conviction that likely will block him from working at schools or pursuing a career in nursing.
Martan was a campus monitor at Miles Exploratory Learning Center in the Tucson Unified School District.
Within days of the allegations against Martan, district officials said they put him on home assignment and told him not to come to work.
Jorgenson said Martan had a previous DUI conviction, but did not mention any other criminal activity by Martan.
Jorgenson said the threats were a “serious crime” that affected government officials.
“It appears to me, Mr. Martan, you haven’t put yourself in the shoes” of McSally and her staff, who may wonder if they’ll see him in public and worry they should be afraid of him, Jorgenson said.
Jorgenson noted the Giffords shooting, saying “we do have that backdrop here in the Tucson community.”
A psychological evaluation of Martan indicated he would not be a danger and was considered low-risk to reoffend, Jorgenson said.
Jorgenson also sentenced Martan to three years of supervised release once he completes his prison term.