Terroristic threat investigation continues despite apology

MARFA – Michael Calvert, a Marfa citizen who made the offhand comment, “I’ll kill every one of you,” to council during a City of Marfa Animal Ordinance workshop, delivered a statement at Thursday’s council meeting saying he had no intention to cause harm. Despite Calvert’s point of view that the comment was “totally in jest,” the Marfa Police Department is continuing an investigation into the comment as a terroristic threat.

Calvert made the controversial comment during a discussion of a provision in the ordinance that he believed he would violate if it were put into law. Calvert believed that if he violated that provision, he would be sent to jail. Councilmember Buck Johnston and City Attorney Teresa Todd reassured him that there are no jail time penalties for violating the Animal Ordinance. Calvert responded he would end up serving time because he would kill every one of the councilmembers, presumably for passing the provision he disliked.

At the Thursday council meeting three days later, Calvert, flanked by his wife and two sons, delivered a written statement to Marfa city council, stating, “I realize that I have a dry humor and that sometimes it is a little rough and can rub people, especially people that don’t know me, the wrong way, when my real intent was really just humor.”

Calvert explained his perspective, stating, “What I said was totally in jest, and I never in my life would or could harm anyone. Since hearing this morning from my son that I was now being investigated for being a terrorist threat, I have no words to express my disbelief.”

The impact the investigation is having on Calvert’s life was also highlighted in his public statement, saying the accusation “has finished me both physically and mentally,” and has added to the stress he already faces from a battle with leukemia and “a host of other medical problems that just barely keep me on the list of the living.”

Calvert concluded, “I offer my sincere apologies to all of the city council members or anyone else that may have felt threatened or offended in any way, for it was not my intention,” and the mayor thanked him for his statement.

However, Marfa Police Chief Steve Marquez said that after speaking with Mayor Manny Baeza, Councilmember Johnston and Attorney Todd, the department is continuing to pursue terroristic threat charges against Calvert even after the apology. Marquez said the police will collect statements from councilmembers, turn them over to the district attorney, “and they’ll put it before a grand jury and see what they have to say,” Marquez explained.

Mayor Baeza spoke firmly against Calvert’s comments. “Threats against council will not be taken lightly. I feel that we cannot set a precedent, by selectively enforcing which comments will be taken seriously. In today’s atmosphere, the safety of council and those attending our meetings will be a top priority.”

Baeza is currently traveling for work, but plans to file his statement with the police once he has returned to Marfa. Meanwhile, Councilmember Irma Salgado said, “I am not here or there on it, but I haven’t filed a report either.” Marquez has emailed all of council and Attorney Todd for statements, but Salgado said she was still torn, and wasn’t sure whether she would complete a statement for the Marfa Police Department.

Councilmembers Raul Lara and Johnston had no comment on the matter, and Councilmember Yoseff Ben-Yehuda could not be reached for comment. Councilmember Natalie Melendez departed early from the special Animal Ordinance workshop, and thus missed the Calvert incident entirely.

Marquez explained that the charges are still being pursued because, “We arrest here for terroristic threats. If we let this one slide, it goes against what we do here.” He hopes it can be resolved through the court process. “It’s nothing personal, but it was said in a council meeting and it was serious, and people in the crowd were asking what’s gonna happen?”