Threats against federal judges and prosecutors are on pace to rise for the fifth consecutive year, say U.S. Marshals Service statistics cited by USA Today. Federal officials are expanding surveillance efforts to include suspects who have threatened state and local authorities and who represent a possible danger to federal court officials. The Marshals Service, assigned to protect 2,000 federal judges and 5,000 prosecutors, found a 69 percent increase in “inappropriate communications” with federal officials from fiscal years 2003 to 2007. The numbers rose each year even though investigators in 2007 began counting multiple threats from the same suspect as one case.
This year is on pace to exceed 2007, with 503 threats through Feb. 9. Authorities increasingly see suspects lash out in public venues such as city council chambers and then escalate their activities to target federal judges and prosecutors. “Historically, there was an expectation that you didn’t mess with judges, prosecutors, jurors, and police officers,” says the Marshals Service’s Michael Prout. “That tradition has been chipped away.” David Sentelle, chairman of the security committee for the U.S. Judicial Conference, says the threats are a significant security concern to his colleagues, although there is no evidence they are driving jurists to quit.