Michigan man charged in threats to state Capitol, lawmaker

January 8, 2021 GMT

A mid-Michigan man accused of threatening a state lawmaker and falsely reporting a bomb in the state Capitol building was on Friday arraigned on terrorism charges.

Michael Varrone, 48, is facing two counts of false report or threat of terrorism and one count of making a false report or threat of bomb. Both charges are felonies.

One of the terrorism charges stems from threats made in December to Rep. Cynthia Johnson a Democrat from Detroit, Michigan’s attorney general’s office said Friday.


On Thursday, a control operator at the Capitol complex in Lansing was told that everyone needed to evacuate because the Capitol building was going to explode. The operator reported the threat to authorities. State police cleared employees to return after clean a sweep of the premises.

State police later arrested Varrone outside his home in Charlotte, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of Lansing.

The bomb threat came a day after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the presidential election.

State police Sgt. William Luebs wrote in a probable cause affidavit filed Friday that Varrone used his cellphone to leave the threatening voicemail Dec. 12.

“If there is one more threat by a Democratic person in Michigan that’s supposed to represent me, I will personally come down there and take over that (expletive) building at the Capitol,” the voicemail said. “If I’m threatened by another senator or anybody like Cynthia Johnson, I’ll personally take care of that (expletive) and their whole (expletive) family.”

Varrone stated his name and spelled his last name in the voicemail, Luebs wrote.

Luebs also wrote that Varrone acknowledged to investigators that he left the Dec. 12 voicemail.

“The accused admitted that he is upset with the current political climate and what occurred at the United States Capitol (Wednesday),” Luebs wrote.

Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a release that “threats to our democracy must not be tolerated.”

She said the threats in Michigan and the attack in Washington, D.C., “can serve as reminders of the security measures we must work to maintain and improve to protect the sanctity of our democracy and the safety of our people.”

Michigan lawmakers are not convening until next week. Legislative leaders and some other legislators have offices in the statehouse. The building is closed to the public except during session days due to coronavirus restrictions.

Varrone was ordered held Friday on a $50,000 bond. His probable cause conference is scheduled for Jan. 22, followed by a Jan. 28 preliminary examination.

The Associated Press was unable to find a telephone number Friday afternoon for Varrone or determine if he has an attorney who can speak on his behalf.


Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Michigan.