A man who sent threatening “tweets” on the Internet to United States Senator Joni Ernst was sentenced today to six years in federal prison. Joseph Hilton Dierks, age 34, from Waterloo, Iowa, received the prison term after a November 22, 2017, jury verdict finding him guilty of three counts of sending threatening communications.
The evidence at trial showed that in August 2017, Dierks began sending Senator Ernst threatening tweets from his Twitter account to her Twitter accounts. The United States Capitol Police in Washington, D.C. then contacted the Waterloo Police Department, which sent a law enforcement officer to Dierks’ home. Dierks promised the officer he would “tone it down” but, within 24 hours, Dierks began sending threatening tweets to the Senator again. The Senator was in Iowa at the time of Dierks’ threats, which resulted in additional security precautions.
Dierks was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge Linda R. Reade. Dierks was sentenced to 72 months’ imprisonment. He must also serve a three-year term of supervised release after the prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.
In sentencing Dierks, Judge Reade emphasized Dierks’ escalating criminal history, which included a prior conviction for harassing a Waterloo police officer and carrying weapons. Dierks also filmed himself tracing a knife on the outline of an unwitting neighbor across the street and offered to cut him up. Dierks also stated in a recorded jailhouse telephone call with his mother that he had no intention of following the Court’s orders when released from prison, hated the United States of America, blamed others for his predicament, and stated life meant very little to him. Judge Reade found Dierks posed an “extreme risk” to recidivate.
“The safety of elected officials is something that cannot be taken lightly,” said United States Attorney Peter E. Deegan, Jr. “This sentencing sends the message that those who attempt to intimidate or threaten to harm elected officials will be held accountable for their actions.”
Dierks is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Timothy L. Vavricek and Richard L. Murphy and investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the United States Capitol Police and the Waterloo Police Department.
Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.
The case file number is 17-CR-2065-LRR.