Public Safety

Ottumwa man who threatened to kill federal judge faces 20 years

Matthew Howard already serving 16 years on other charges

CEDAR RAPIDS — An Ottumwa man, already serving time for robbery and threatening to kill former President Barack Obama, pleaded guilty Friday to threatening a federal judge for the second time.

Matthew J. Howard, 31, pleaded guilty to making threats against a federal judge and mailing threatening communications. Howard, during the hearing, admitted to threatening to kill, assault or kidnap U.S. District Senior Judge Linda Reade and mailing a threatening letter.

Howard also admitted he was angry at Reade when he threatened her.

Court documents show Howard, in 2012, threatened to kill Obama and kidnap his children. He also threatened to kill Reade because she sentenced two of his 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 said Howard had an extensive mental health history but his criminal history also “suggests he is an impulsive, violent and dangerous individual,” a sentencing document shows.

Howard is already serving 13 years in a state prison for robbery and burglary in Wapello County, and he received an additional 40 months in federal prison for threatening to kill the former president and Judge Reade in 2013. He wrote those threatening letters while he was serving time at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.

U.S. District Magistrate Stephen Jackson Jr. told Howard he now faces up to 20 years, and those sentences could be served consecutively to his Wapello County sentence and three-year sentence out of the Southern federal district.

Jackson said Howard would go back to continue his state prison sentence before starting serving his federal prison terms.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 10 in U.S. District Court.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318;


Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.