The Burlington woman accused of sending a threatening letter with a white powder to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ Bangor home last year after her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court was found guilty Monday of mailing a threatening communication.
Suzanne E. Muscara, 37, did not take the stand in her own defense during her half-day trial in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
The jury deliberated for less than 30 minutes before announcing its verdict.
To find Muscara guilty, the jury had to determine that she intended to threaten Maine’s senior senator.
Neither Collins nor her husband Thomas Daffron attended the trial.
In a recorded interview with FBI agents played for the jury of seven men and five women, Muscara admitted to sending the letter but said she meant it as a joke, not as a threat. She also said that she expected the letter to be intercepted, as it was, and never delivered.
“I didn’t want anything to happen,” Muscara said on the recording. “I just thought it was funny. I thought cops were, like, sifting through her mail. I didn’t expect anyone significant would read it.”
Muscara also told agents that she had never heard of Collins and knew nothing about her until she heard radio news reports about the controversy surrounding Kavanaugh’s nomination and the Maine senator’s key vote in his confirmation battle.
The envelope contained an Aetna Medicare Solutions flyer, FBI agent Michel Verhar testified. On one side in blue handwriting was written, “AnthRAX!!! HA HA HA!!!”
“A stick-figure face had been drawn with the letter ‘X’ for eyes, the tongue sticking out, and with ‘You’ and an arrow pointing at the stick figure’s face,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCormack told jurors in his closing statement.
The letter was addressed to Collins at her current Bangor home. The return address on the envelope was for Collins’ prior residence.
The letter was intercepted at the U.S. Postal Service’s sorting facility in Hampden on Oct. 17, 2018, two days after Collins’ husband received a similar letter in the mail at the couple’s Bangor home.
No one has been charged in connection with that mailing, Verhar testified Monday. That letter contained a direct threat against the senator and her husband, according to Federal Defender James Nixon, who served as Muscara’s attorney.
Muscara was identified from a partial fingerprint after investigators determined the powder was harmless. The fingerprint was matched to Muscara, whose fingerprints had been collected following a 2013 arrest in Pennsylvania, a court affidavit said. The circumstances surrounding that arrest were not included in court documents and not made public in court Monday.
McCormack said in his closing argument that Muscara’s letter was meant as a threat and that she only apologized for her actions when she was interviewed by the FBI.
Nixon, the defense attorney, said Muscara took no steps to conceal her identity — she did not wear gloves, for example — and was truthful with agents in her statements to them in April.
Information included in search warrants said that Muscara purchased land and moved to Burlington — a Penobscot County town of fewer than 400 people located southeast of Lincoln — in December 2013. She lived on Sibley Road in a trailer until late 2017 when it was destroyed in a fire that injured Muscara.
The person from whom Muscara purchased the land, who is not identified in court documents, allegedly told an investigator that Muscara went to stay with relatives in New Jersey while she recovered. She returned in April or May 2018 and arranged to rent a cabin on Twin Hills Road owned by the same person from whom she bought the land.
Investigators determined early this year that Muscara was living in her car in southern states in January, February and March. She had contact with out-of-state police on Jan. 12 in Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama, on Feb. 11 in Mississippi and on March 10 in Knoxville, Tennessee.
She returned to the cabin in Burlington on April 1 and was arrested April 5. Muscara had been held without bail since then.
Following the verdict, Collins’ spokeswoman Annie Clark said, “Senator Collins and her husband, Tom Daffron, are grateful for the extraordinary professionalism and effective investigative work by state and federal law enforcement agencies.”
A sentencing date has not been set.
Nixon asked that the required presentence report be expedited because Muscara has been incarcerated about as long as her sentence is expected to be.
Muscara faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.