Text contains alleged death threats against judge and prosecutor

April 16, 2013 12:44:19 AM PDT
A Fresno business man is facing felony charges for alleged death threats to a Fresno County judge and a prosecutor. But he says it was nothing more than a drunk text.

The threatening text was delivered to a judge who works at the criminal courthouse. But the suspect says he doesn't remember sending it, and if he did, he was just venting to a friend.

Mike Hamburger will always remember this walk into a Fresno County courtroom. But the longtime Fresno resident with no prior criminal convictions says he doesn't remember how testifying in his wife's misdemeanor DUI trial led to four felony charges.

It all started when hamburger vehemently voiced his frustration with the legal process while on the witness stand. Judge Bruce Smith held him in contempt of court.

"He didn't know what was going on," said defense attorney Miles Harris, who represented Hamburger's wife in the DUI trial and now represents Hamburger in the felony threats case. "Now, he'd been kicked out of the courtroom, you know, even more so didn't know what was going on, and he went and had some drinks."

Judge Smith declared a mistrial in his wife's case -- at least in part because of Hamburger's behavior. The case had already stretched out for 18 months and the mistrial meant it'll go on even longer and cost Hamburger more money.

So, hours after the courtroom debacle, and hours after he started drinking at a Northeast Fresno bar, investigators say Hamburger sent a text about the judge and the prosecutor, Kendall Reynolds.

"Tell Mr. Reynolds and [Judge] Smith I'm going to have them killed," it said.

"That's all very gray," Hamburger told Action News. "But I do not remember typing it or sending it and if you look through five years of texts and emails, that's not who I am."

Hamburger allegedly sent the text to Judge David Kalemkarian. He says the two are longtime friends who text each other more than a hundred times a month. The judge is required to report potential threats against other public officers, but Hamburger's attorney says the text wasn't really a threat.

"Anything beyond being a drunk text, he was venting to a friend," Harris said. "There was no intention."

Because the charges involve threats against a Fresno County judge, they brought in a retired Tulare County judge to hear the case Monday. But the district attorney's office is prosecuting the case for now, even though one of its own was allegedly threatened.


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