Delegate Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer

 

CHARLESTON — A Front Royal, Va. man has been charged in connection with threats made to a Mercer County member of the House of Delegates.

Jonathan George Benfer, 49, was charged in the Kanawha County Magistrate Court on March 1 with intimidation or retaliation against a public official.

According to the criminal complaint, filed by Officer G.L. Brown with the Capitol Police, Benfer called and left a phone message for Del. Eric Porterfield (R-Mercer County) “making threats and vulgarity language to the delegate, singling him out in an aggressive and assaultive over the phone.”

The criminal complaint said the statements in the message included: “I’m a f••••t! If you want to take us on, my people, you take me on personally. If you want to bash a f••••t, you can call me up and we have it out mister, I will come! You’re a f•••••g coward. You’re f•••••g insulting my people! You’re contributing to the massive numbers of suicides … Now you’re a representative so you’re in public, so we’re going to bash back!.”

“Delegate Porterfield is blind and disabled and took these comments as a direct threat to his personal/physical well-being and oath of office to carry out his duties as a House Delegate for the State of West Virginia,” the complaint said.

Magistrate Joe Shelton found probable cause and a warrant was issued for Benfer.

The message was left on Porterfield’s office phone in Charleston last month after he made statements in a House committee meeting regarding a proposed amendment that would basically not allow municipalities to give gays anti-discrimination protection.

Porterfield, who is blind and a minister, supported the amendment and referred to the LGBTQ (lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and queer) community as “socialists” and “discriminatory bigots,” and using the word “f••••t” in a quote from a gay activist.

His remarks drew immediate criticism and news stories and the message on his phone left two days after that committee meeting led him to call Capitol Police.

After that call was received, Porterfield told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph that he was “terrified of these people” and he referred to them as “brutal monsters.”

“I feel like the LBGTQ .. would be the Ku Klux Klan in the modern era without the hoods,” he said.

Porterfield on Friday said the telephone threat explains why he was upset and why he made those comments using the term “brutal monsters” and the Ku Klux Klan comparison.

Two days after the initial phone threat, he said he also received another threat, anonymously, at his home with a man saying he hopes “the church burns down with everyone one of you inside,” referring to Porterfield’s church where he bases his Blind Faith Ministries.

Porterfield has been criticized by the Republican Party leadership and calls for his resignation were heard from the Democratic leadership.

But he has refused to resign.

“I don’t understand why anyone would not agree with me, if they had been going through what I have been through with these people,” he said recently.

The facts, he said, relate to the threats he has received as well as the ridicule of his blindness on social media, which, he says, “prove” his comments on the LGBTQ community.

“I will not be bullied or intimidated for my stand,” he said. “I am still on my committees and I am not going to resign. I am going nowhere unless I go to a bigger office in 2020.”

 — Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com.

 

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