A Front Royal man has been charged with threatening a public official stemming from a voicemail left on West Virginia Del. Eric Porterfield’s office phone.
Jonathan George Benfer, 49, of Front Royal, was arrested last week on a misdemeanor count of intimidation or retaliation against a public official and a misdemeanor count of making threats and using obscene, harassing language via cellphone.
Porterfield said over the phone that the voicemail was left after he referenced the title of right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos’ speaking tour during a committee meeting regarding anti-discrimination protections for homosexuals.
“I didn’t know how to reference it other than what the title was..., and the name of his tour was the Dangerous F- — — tour...he named it...it’s not what I named it,” he said. After the meeting, Porterfield said word was spreading around that he used a homophobic slur and “that’s just not true.”
“I don’t know what to use to substitute and shorthand or to leave a blank for that particular slur. So I just read it out as it was,” he said.
Not long after, Porterfield said he received the message from Benfer.
A criminal complaint by Capitol Police officer G.L. Brown states that Benfer called Porterfield’s West Virginia State Capitol Office and made threats using vulgar language that included “calling him out in an aggressive and assaultive nature.”
The complaint states that Benfer told Porterfield that he was “contributing to the massive numbers of suicides” and “I bet you bashed f- — yourself in high school.”
“Now you’re a representative, so you’re in the public, so we’re going to bash back,” Benfer said, according to the complaint. He went on to say that if Porterfield wants to “fight with a f-----, you call me up and I’ll be there tomorrow and we’ll have it out.”
“You bring as many people as you want, and so will I,” Benfer said, according to the complaint.
The complaint states that Porterfield is “blind and disabled and took these comments as obscene, harassing and threatening to his personal/physical well being.”
Kanawha County Magistrate Court employee Samantha Hite said over the phone that Benfer has been released on bond and is due in court on April 4.