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Former Pennsylvania lawyer pleads guilty to threatening to kill Senate Democrats

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA

A former Pennsylvania lawyer charged with threatening to kill Democrats in the U.S. Senate has pleaded guilty, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Kenelm Shirk III, 72, of the city of Lebanon, was arrested by Pennsylvania State Police at a gas station near Shippensburg on Jan. 21, 2021, the day after Joe Biden was inaugurated president and a little more than two weeks after a violent, pro-Donald Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. A search of Shirk’s car recovered an AR-15 rifle, two handguns and a box of ammunition, according to police.

Police began looking for Shirk after his ex-wife reported he had threatened to kill her as well as government officials in the Washington area, according to an affidavit filed in state court. Police spotted his car parked at a gas station just off the interstate, about two hours north of Washington, and arrested him without incident.

Shirk pleaded guilty on Monday to a charge of threatening to murder a U.S. official.

His attorney, John Abom, said the case was “very much making a mountain out of a molehill.” He said Shirk had the guns because he's a target shooter, and was headed to Virginia to visit family.

Shirk has remained behind bars since his arrest in January 2021. The charge carries a maximum 10 years in prison, though his attorney said he will ask for a sentence of time served. Sentencing has not been scheduled.

Before his arrest, Shirk had been solicitor for Akron borough, in Lancaster County. Shirk was disbarred last year.

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