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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Tremonton man arrested for making online death threats against the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will likely face federal indictment next week, U.S. Attorney Paul Warner said.
Jay Richard Morrison, 57, who appeared in court Thursday, could face two counts of threatening interstate communication, although any charges depend on the grand jury's decision, Warner said.
A felony complaint filed by Warner's office in Salt Lake City accused Morrison of threatening to kill Gordon B. Hinckley.
Salt Lake City police and the FBI had been tracking Morrison since July 2002 and moved to contact him after his alleged threats became more specific in purpose and method, FBI spokesman George Dougherty said. Morrison did not respond to officers at his door in late January, according to the complaint.
A Nevada highway patrolman arrested Morrison at a rest stop near Elko, Nev., Wednesday night. Morrison had lingered at the rest stop after the officer asked him to leave; the officer ran his information through a crime database and noticed the complaint against Morrison.
Morrison was not planning an imminent attack on Hinckley or other church officials, Warner said. But "we're not going to find out the hard way if he has the capability of harming someone else," he said. "His First Amendment rights end when he begins to make death threats against someone."
Under the conditions of the U.S. Attorney's holding complaint, Morrison could face up to five years on each count of threatening interstate communication, along with a $250,000 fine.
During his initial appearance Thursday afternoon, Morrison spoke little, other than to tell Judge Sam Alba that he thought the possible punishments were unfair.
"I think that is excessive," Morrison said.
Alba appointed an attorney for Morrison, who has not held a job since 1998 and has been caretaking a house for his dying mother since then. Morrison has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Monday.
Warner wants Morrison to have an evaluation to clarify his mental condition, he said.
The investigation into Morrison began when security officers from the LDS church told Salt Lake City police about the threats. At least one threat involved decapitating Hinckley.
LDS church spokesman Dale Bills refused to comment on the case or Morrison.
The FBI traced the postings, made in the alt.religion.mormon newsgroup, to an e-mail address used by Morrison, according to the complaint.
The author of the threats wrote on Feb. 6, "I have been given the moral right to kill them, not only Gordon Hinckley but the entire first presidency and Quorum of the Twelve," according to the complaint. "Thus I had the FBI banging on my door the week before last. ...We are now going to proceed with killing them."
In a July 2002 posting, the author wrote, "So I have been thinking how I am going to kill Gordon Hinckley. (I pray that he does not die before I get the privilege of killing him.) I have decided this. When I hack his head off I am also going to cut off ..." That posting was not quoted fully in the government's complaint.
The Quorum represents the highest group of men leading the LDS church.
Warner and Dougherty said more specific language of Morrison's alleged threats would be available after an indictment.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)