Omaha man pleads guilty to threatening U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst

He made 'alarming' statements about shooting up motorcycle shop

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst talks during the Inaugural Celebration of Gov. Kim Reynolds at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Des Moines Downtown in Des Moines on Friday, Jun. 2, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst talks during the Inaugural Celebration of Gov. Kim Reynolds at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Des Moines Downtown in Des Moines on Friday, Jun. 2, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

An Omaha man pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to making threats against U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst.

Court documents show Robert W. Simet, 64, believed the senator was involved with Islamic State terrorists, and he told others last July that he might kill her at a motorcycle shop during a Pacific Junction event.

Simet was identified as a suspect by employees and others at Loess Hills Harley-Davidson in Pacific Junction, an affidavit shows. Ernst was scheduled to speak July 8 at the shop and lead a ride to Hamburg.

Evan York, a deputy with the Mills County Sheriff’s Office, contacted an FBI agent after he received a complaint about the threats.

Special Agent Jonathan Robitaille talked to motorcycle shop employees, who told him Simet knew Ernst was going to make an appearance there, the record shows.

Simet made “alarming” statements that caused employees to fear for the senator’s safety.

Robitaille also interviewed another employee who stated Simet said he didn’t know if he should come to the Pacific Junction event because he would be arrested, the affidavit shows. Simet said if he did go, he would take “everybody with him.”

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The affidavit shows another witness told the agent that Simet also talked about a conspiracy regarding President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Islamic State. The suspect said “everyone in the government needs to be killed off.”

The FBI tracked Simet to his home in Nebraska by using a credit card receipt and copy of his driver’s license.

The affidavit states when Robitaille went to Simet’s house, he found many of the windows covered by aluminum foil and a security camera on the exterior.

According to the affidavit, Simet registered a firearm in 2007. He was convicted of felony burglary in Nebraska in 1975 but received a full pardon in 2000 with restoration of gun rights. He also was convicted of assault and battery, a misdemeanor, in 2013.

Court records don’t indicate what penalty or prison time Simet faces for the conviction, of threatening to assault a U.S. official.

Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt of Iowa’s Southern District set his sentencing for May 23 and ordered Simet’s conditions of release pending sentencing be modified as requested by the prosecution. Court documents don’t show details of those conditions.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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