CHARLESTON — A Virginia resident has been charged in connection with threats he allegedly made against West Virginia House of Delegates member Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer.
Jonathan George Benfer, 49, of Front Royal, Va., was charged in Kanawha County Magistrate Court with misdemeanor counts of intimidation or retaliation against a public official.
According to the criminal complaint, Benfer left a phone message on Porterfield’s state office phone in February. Capitol Police described the message, which reportedly included a series of profanities, as “aggressive.” Investigators say the message was recorded a few days after a legislative committee meeting, during which Porterfield used an anti-gay slur.
Porterfield later compared the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan and terrorists groups. Shortly thereafter, the West Virginia Republican Party issued a statement denouncing Porterfield and his comments, and the West Virginia Democratic Party called for his resignation.
Porterfield, who is a minister, told investigators he has received additional threats, including one at his home from an anonymous caller who implied he wanted to set fire to the church where Porterfield’s faith-based organization, Blind Faith Ministries, is based.
Intimidation of a public official is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The harassment and threat charge carries a maximum sentence, on first offense, of six months in jail and a $500 fine.
A warrant has been issued for Benfer’s arrest.