(Missoula Current) A Kalispell man who admitted to threatening to kill Montana U.S. Senator Jon Tester in calls to his office was sentenced today to two and a half years in prison in Missoula District Court, to be followed by three years of supervised release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Kevin Patrick Smith, 46, pleaded guilty in April to threats to murder a United States Senator.

U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided.

In court documents and in statements in court, the government said public discourse is the cornerstone of a free society and that criticism, disagreement, and even disdain are not only acceptable methods of expression, they also are constitutionally protected. “But there is a line. And Kevin Patrick Smith crossed that line – repeatedly,” the government said.

The government alleged that on Jan. 30, Smith made numerous threatening phone calls to Sen. Tester, a member of Congress, by leaving voicemails at Sen. Tester’s Kalispell office.

In one message, Smith said:

“There is nothing I want more than to have you stand toe to toe with me. You stand toe to toe with me. I rip your head off. You die. You stand in a situation where it is physical between you and me. You die.”

Smith also left a message for Sen. Tester that said:

“I would love to (obscenity) kill you. I would love to see your FBI at my door. I would love to see something in the news.”

The government further alleged that Smith’s voicemails, including the frequency and threats of murder, rose to the level that the United States Capitol Police and FBI began investigating. Despite being warned by the FBI not to threaten public officials, Smith refused to stop. Smith acknowledged in the recordings that he threatened Sen. Tester and such threats were “on purpose.” Smith made the threats because he was upset with Sen. Tester’s political decisions.

In total, Smith left about 60 messages for Sen. Tester. After arresting Smith, law enforcement searched his residence and recovered 19 firearms, including four shotguns, five rifles, eight pistols, a home-made silencer and 1,186 rounds of ammunition.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan G. Weldon prosecuted the case. The FBI and U.S. Capital Police conducted the investigation.