CHARLESTON, W.Va. —  A Virginia resident has been charged in connection with threats he allegedly made against West Virginia House of Delegates member Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer.

Jonathan George Benfer, 49, of Front Royal, Va., was charged in Kanawha County Magistrate Court with misdemeanor counts of making obscene, harassing and threatening communications and of intimidation or retaliation against a public official.

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Eric Porterfield

According to the criminal complaint, Benfer left a phone message on Porterfield’s state office phone in February. Capitol Police described the message, which reportedly included a series of profanities, as “aggressive.” Investigators say the message was recorded a few days after a legislative committee meeting, during which Porterfield used an anti-gay slur.

Porterfield later compared the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan and terrorists groups. Shortly thereafter, the West Virginia Republican Party issued a statement denouncing Porterfield and his comments, and the West Virginia Democratic Party called for his resignation.

Porterfield, who is a minister, told investigators he has received additional threats, including one at his home from an anonymous caller who implied he wanted to set fire to the church where Porterfield’s faith-based organization, Blind Faith Ministries, is based.

Intimidation of a public official is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The harassment and threat charge carries a maximum sentence, on first offense, of six months in jail and a $500 fine.

A warrant has been issued for Benfer’s arrest.

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