Public Safety

Ottumwa man threatens to kill a federal judge for second time

Already serving prison time for threat to judge and former president Obama

CEDAR RAPIDS — An Ottumwa man, already serving time in a state prison for robbery and burglary and for threatening to kill former president Barack Obama and a federal judge, pleaded not guilty Thursday for mailing a death threat to the same federal judge.

Matthew James Howard, 31, serving 16 years in Anamosa State Penitentiary, pleaded not guilty to threats against a federal judge and mailing threatening communications on Nov. 30. Howard is accused of threatening to kill U.S. District Senior Judge Linda Reade in a letter sent from prison, according to the indictment unsealed earlier this month.

Howard was serving 13 years in prison for the burglary and robbery in Wapello County and received an additional three years in September 2013 for writing letters threatening to kill the former president and Reade in 2012 when he serving time at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.

Court documents show Howard, back in 2012, threatened to kill Obama and kidnap his children. He threatened to kill Reade because she sentenced two of friends to life in prison, Howard told police. In the letter, he told Reade he was going to kill her and several other judges at the courthouse when released from prison.

A federal prosecutor, in sentencing document, said Howard had an extensive mental health history but his criminal history also “suggests he is an impulsive, violent and dangerous individual.”

Howard, if convicted in the current case, faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

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