Man accused of threatening to kidnap, kill Wichita mayor to go before jury
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A Wichita man accused of threatening to kill and kidnap Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple over a city mask mandate will go before a jury for a trial in July. Fifty-nine-year-old Meredith Dowty is charged with three counts of criminal threat.
In a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, June 2, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett laid out the evidence in the case. He told the judge there is no question that Dowty’s messages were threatening. Bennett showed the messages that were exchanged between Dowty and former Wichita City Councilmember James Clendenin who later reported the texts to police.
The messages from Dowty were directed at Whipple and included phrases like, “They should have their F’ing throats slashed ear to ear,” and “I swear to kill all enemies.” Later in the conversation, Dowty implied that Whipple “has to deal with a hangman.”
The defense argued that the conversation was not a threat but a political expression and that the court should never censor political speech.
“It was political hyperbole, it’s protected by the First Amendment. If people can’t criticize somebody, we can’t get anywhere.,” Dowty’s attorney said. “There’s no indication, if we can’t have a free country. and we can’t speak how we want. This mandate was in effect, this gentleman was upset, and obviously, he regrets what he said.. But it’s not a political threat.”
Bennett argued that the text messages went beyond criticizing a political decision. The judge ordered the case to go to trial, starting July 21.
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