An East Bay anti-vaxxer who threatened state Sen. Scott Wiener earlier this year over a bill that would’ve let teens get vaccinated without parental approval was found guilty this week.
Of the eight felony counts leveled against 51-year-old San Ramon resident Erik Triana, a jury found him guilty of seven.
Namely, of threatening Wiener’s life, two counts of possessing assault weapons, two counts of manufacturing or assembling unregistered firearms, and two counts of having a concealed firearm in a vehicle. He was found not guilty for criminal threat of death or great bodily injury.
“While free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy and a constitutionally protected right, there is a clear line between political discourse and threats of violence,” Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Kang said. “The jury’s verdict in this case highlights the fact that threats to seriously harm or kill a public servant because of disagreement with their policies is not protected speech and will not be tolerated.”
Wiener’s bill prompted Triana to threaten Wiener on Jan. 22, Kang said at the trial’s opening. Triana’s threats came in the form of an anonymous message left on the politician’s website saying, “Vax my kids without my permission and expect a visit from me and my rifle.”
Triana also noted the address of the Moscone Center, which Kang argued was evidence of plans to kill or harm Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco: The events center was named after former Mayor George Moscone, who was assassinated in 1978.
Triana's attorney argued at the trial’s opening that his client was a family man who made a terrible mistake.
“Erik Triana is not who the prosecution would have you believe he is,” Ian McGrattan said. “Is he a man who has violent intentions? Or is he someone who made a mistake and posted a comment on the internet?”
Wiener—who has fielded death threats before—said he was grateful for the verdict.
“Death threats against public officials undermine democracy,” he wrote in a prepared statement. “A public official should make decisions based on what benefits the community, not based on whether a decision will get the official killed. Modern politics can be polarized and toxic, but we must never normalize or tolerate death threats.”
Weiner withdrew his vaccination bill, SB 866, on Aug. 31, the same day Triana’s trial opened. “The anti-vaxxer harassment campaign worked this time, at the expense of teen health,” Wiener wrote on Twitter that day. “We lost this round but aren’t going anywhere.”
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org