Due to her faith, her race, and her country of origin, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has often been the target of bigotry and hatred, exacerbated by the President of the United States and his supporters who called for her deportation, despite Omar being an American citizen.
As a result, Omar is frequently the target of death threats. One of the issuers of those threats was 55-year-old Patrick Carlineo, who pleaded guilty this week to threatening Omar’s life.
Carlineo called Omar a “terrorist” and threatened to shoot her.
Congresswoman Omar’s response to the bigotry was an admirable one, however, aligned with her principles regarding incarceration and justice reform.
Carlineo’s crimes carry up to 10 years in prison, but in a letter to District Judge Frank Geraci, Omar called for lenience.
Read her letter to the judge below.
Sharing my full letter on the the sentencing of Patrick W. Carlineo, a man convicted of threatening my life.
We must apply a system of compassion to criminal justice.
Who are we as a nation if we respond to threats of political retribution with retribution ourselves? pic.twitter.com/s96jjh8AlD
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) November 19, 2019
“But we must ask: who are we as a nation if we respond to threats of political retribution with retribution ourselves?”
“The answer to hate is not more hate; it is compassion. Punishing the defendant with a lengthy prison sentence or a burdensome financial fine would not rehabilitate him.”
“It would not repair the harm he has caused. It would only increase his anger and resentment.”
She goes on to urge Judge Geraci to choose “restorative justice” over a “punitive approach” before asking him to address the root cause:
“[W]e must address the root causes of these crimes. The desire to commit violence is not inherent in people. People who threaten violence are often themselves the victims of systemic alienation and neglect.”
“They seek violence because they are taught violence. We must address this situtation through community reintegration and social services.”
Omar concluded with a quote from South African President and civil rights hero Nelson Mandela:
“As Nelson Mandela said, ‘People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love’.”
“We must teach the defendant love.”
Twitter users saw Omar’s mercy as a class act.
THAT is what grace looks like. THAT is what tolerance and understanding look like. THAT is what leadership looks like. #WalkTheWalk
— Tracita (@tracita19) November 19, 2019
I agree with Representative Ilhan Omar: The answer to hate is not more hate; it is compassion. https://t.co/zHwTHAusVt
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) November 19, 2019
Ilhan Omar is modeling a level of compassion she is rarely shown herself for someone who literally wanted to kill her.
The US prison industrial complex punishes individual violence w/ systematic violence. We need solutions grounded in restorative justice & addressing root causes https://t.co/kLCdaK2ZXl
— Rebecca Pierce #BlackShabbat (@aptly_engineerd) November 19, 2019
This is entirely in line with Islamic teachings of de-escalating conflict as I and so many other Muslims understand it. I hope people will see it as a value to be emulated and not an outlier response to be ignored. https://t.co/DwOqcoLL5t
— Shahed Amanullah (@shahed) November 19, 2019
This is beautiful, and moving. A wonderful example of compassion, love, and forgiveness. https://t.co/G9rwYbHypi
— ohdave (@MarkRey92717108) November 19, 2019
For comparison, Omar’s colleague and critic, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), recently wrote a letter to the judge overseeing the sentencing of a protestor who dumped a drink on him.
There's plenty to criticize about Rep Omar, but compare her largeness of heart here with the sniveling Rep Gaetz demanding jail time for a woman who threw a drink at him. https://t.co/ti6AevpvTd
— Jared Cook (@jkimballcook) November 19, 2019
Ilhan Omar has a previously convicted felon call her office, threaten to kill her, and she writes a letter asking the judge to be lenient.
Matt Gaetz is "milkshaked" and asked the judge to incarcerate her for "assault".
That's a big yikes
— Tatt_Momas (@Thomas_Matt22) November 19, 2019
Rep Matt Gaetz sought a jail term for a woman that threw a slushie at him. His letter included a semi-veiled threat that his supporters "are just as passionate as my opponents. They have the capability to be violent too." In contrast, here's Rep Omar's letter re: a murder threat: https://t.co/Dpa6WdaMwK
— Garett Raines (@GarettRaines) November 20, 2019
Matt Gaetz embarrassed by a flying slushy:
"I demand prison time for the heinous perpetrator!!"
Ilhan Omar criminally, credibly, threatened with assassination:
"Let us be compassionate"
— Tammy Rainey * Warren2020 (@Tammy_Beth) November 19, 2019
The woman who embarrassed Matt Gaetzâ€”who has a 2008 DUI arrest on his own record for which he received no punishmentâ€”was sentenced to 15 days in federal custody.
Carlineoâ€™s sentencing before Geraci is scheduled for Feb. 14, 2020.