On the off-chance you need a civics refresher: not all speech is "protected". The First Amendment does not cover, "obscenity, child pornography, defamatory speech, false advertising, true threats, and fighting words." Whether or not what was said or shown falls into these categories is left to the courts, although it tends to be pretty self-apparent in most cases.

One Texas man could spend 40 years in prison over what he said, which is most likely the rest of his life. Brian Michael Gaherty of Houston, Texas is currently out on $100,000 bond after allegedly leaving four threatening voicemails with the office of Representative Maxine Waters. In one of the messages, the 60-year-old threatened to cut her throat. That is definitely not protected speech, those are "fighting words" at the very least, and a federal jury felt there was enough evidence to indict him.

Threats to U.S. officials carry a statutory minimum of 10 years, so if he's convicted on all four counts, he must serve at least 40 years. He was also charged with four counts of, " making threats in interstate communications."

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It was not stated in the press release from the US Attorney's Office why Gaherty felt the need to threaten Rep. Waters, but she does have a controversial history of "inflaming" rioters, according to a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece at least, which accuses her of "reckless rhetoric". However, Rep. Waters has served an impressive sixteen terms representing south Los Angeles. Per her own government bio page, she's never backed down from the more "difficult" issues:

Throughout her more than 40 years of public service, Maxine Waters has been on the cutting edge, tackling difficult and often controversial issues. She has combined her strong legislative and public policy acumen and high visibility in Democratic Party activities with an unusual ability to do grassroots organizing.

Why a Texas man felt the need to single out a California representative to threaten with lethal violence may remain a mystery until his trial.

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