Howard County man pleads guilty to threatening LGBTQ+ advocacy group, admits sending threats to lawmakers

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The U.S. District Courthouse in Baltimore. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.
A Howard County man admitted to sending threatening messages to Maryland and Virginia lawmakers and faces five years in prison after pleading guilty in federal court to threatening a group that advocates for LGBTQI+ people.

Adam Michael Nettina, 34, of West Friendship, entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Wednesday.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Nettina left multiple voicemails on the night of March 28, 2023, at the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization.

The messages, left at 11:17 p.m. and 11:21 p.m., referenced the March 27, 2023, mass shooting at a Nashville private school, where police identified the perpetrator as transgender.

In the expletive-laced messages, Nettina made multiple threats, including “We’ll cut your throats. We’ll put a bullet in your head.”

He was arrested for the threats on March 31.

On Wednesday, Nettina was re-arraigned in the case. As part of the plea agreement, the threats to lawmakers were made public.

According to the plea, Nettina made a threat on March 31, 2022, to now-Del. Nick Allen (D-Baltimore County), who was then a candidate for the House of Delegates and had posted a message of support on social media in honor of the Trans Day of Visibility.

Nettina replied with a Facebook message, in which he said he had “begun the formal process of getting [Allen] excommunicated…” from the Catholic Church.

On election night, when Allen won his race, Nettina sent another series of Facebook messages, calling the delegate-elect a “Baby killing terrorist,” and wishing death on the candidate and his wife. “Enjoy hell You’re going sooner than you think,” the messages stated, according to prosecutors.

Allen was not publicly named in the plea agreement, but his March 2022 Facebook post remained public Tuesday and he confirmed the threatening messages were directed to him.

“It’s clear that we have a mental health crisis in this country. And we have a hate crisis in this country. And those things tend to overlap in violent ways,” Allen said in an interview. The delegate said he would pray for Nettina, who was a high school classmate.

“I hope we will begin to see less of these kinds of things and less violence and less violent rhetoric,” Allen said.

The messages to the Virginia delegate were sent in October 2022, according to the plea agreement.

On Oct. 15, 2022, Nettina sent an email to the delegate’s press email account, stating: “The delegate is a terrorist. You are a terrorist. You deserve to be shot and hung in the streets. You want to come after people? Let’s go b**ch.” Nettina also sent a similar message to another email address of the delegate two minutes later, according to prosecutors.

A spokesperson for Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William) confirmed she is the Virginia delegate listed in the documents.

The plea states that the emails were sent two days after an Oct. 13 news story that included an interview with Guzman “in which she advocated for the prevention of abuse towards transgender children.”

At that time, Guzman had said she planned to reintroduce a failed 2020 bill that would have expanded the state’s definition of child abuse and neglect to include situations where a parent or guardian “creates or inflicts … a physical or mental injury on the basis of the child’s gender identity or sexual orientation.”

The proposal caused a political uproar in Virginia after news station WJLA-TV ran a report stating that it could lead to felony charges for parents who don’t affirm their child’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Republicans including Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Attorney General Jason Miyares and the state party all released statements castigating the proposal, and some Democrats distanced themselves from it. Guzman and her team disputed the portrayal of the legislation, arguing it made no mention of gender-affirming care, but ultimately withdrew it. A full recording of her interview with WJLA released later includes an exchange where she denies that the bill would consider parents not affirming their child’s gender identity or sexual orientation to be abuse.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is expected to argue at sentencing that the additional threats to the lawmakers mean Nettina should face a longer sentence. Prosecutors are also seeking a sentencing enhancement for Nettina’s targeting of LGBTQ+ supporters and the community.

In an earlier case filing seeking Nettina’s release from pre-trial detention, his lawyers wrote that while he was accused of making threats, there was no evidence that he had made any effort to act on the threat.

“His words were offensive and harmful, but Mr. Nettina is not an individual who has acted on, or sought to act on, the threat,” his attorney, Joseph Murtha, wrote in April.

His attorneys sought Nettina’s release to an inpatient treatment program.

On Wednesday, Murtha offered a brief statement after the guilty plea was entered: “Mr. Nettina found himself in a dark place in his life at the time of the voicemail that he left. He has accepted responsibility for his actions, and regrets that it happened. At no time did he ever intend to harm anyone.”

The guilty plea was announced Wednesday by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office.

“You have the right to your own opinions, but you don’t have the right to threaten the lives of those who disagree with you,” Barron said in a statement. “We’ll continue prosecuting these threats to the fullest extent of the law.”

Sobocinski urged people who receive threatening messages to notify law enforcement.

“All Americans should be able to go about their daily lives without fear and without threats of violence,” Sobocinski said in a statement. “Protecting the American people is the FBI’s number one priority and we remain committed to protecting the rights of all Americans. We urge members of the public to notify law enforcement about threats of violence or if they have any concerns.”

Nettina faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for making threats transmitted by interstate communications.

U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Nov. 3.

This breaking news story was updated. Virginia Mercury’s Sarah Vogelsong contributed to this report. 

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