Florida man sent ‘Disciples of Democracy’ death threats to Capitol rioters

Former firefighter posed as assassin squad targeting Trump supporters
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021.
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021. [ JOSEPH PREZIOSO | AFP via Getty Images ]
Published Oct. 19, 2022|Updated Oct. 20, 2022

Marilyn Fassell asked a judge last month to let her carry a gun while she and her husband await sentencing for their part in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Fassell’s reason: fear stoked by an expletive-laden death threat mailed to her Largo home from what seemed to be a group planning to assassinate Jan. 6 defendants.

Prosecutors’ response: The culprit had already been caught.

Denis Bass, a 67-year-old retired Broward County firefighter, pleaded guilty in federal court in Miami on Tuesday. He admitted to mailing threatening letters to Jan. 6 defendants across Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The Lighthouse Point resident faces up to five years in prison.

The unsigned letters — there were at least 10 — were all headed “Disciples of Democracy” and contained lines similar to this one: “We are here to track down and eliminate each and every one that participated in the January 6 insurrection/riot.”

Starting in July 2021, the letters arrived in mailboxes of people present at the Capitol that day. They continued this year, unsigned, but from someone calling himself the “founding member” of Disciples of Democracy. They were rife with personal details, FBI investigators said, indicating Bass conducted “significant research” on his targets.

One apparently went to Graydon Young, a Sarasota County Oath Keeper who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and referenced the preschool Young owns with his wife. Other letters noted rivers or landmarks near recipients’ homes.

A number of them contained Bass’s fingerprints, which the FBI matched to a TSA precheck application he’d submitted.

“Some of us are X military, but all of us are professional hunters,” said another letter, noting the recipient’s son was a police officer. Another said, “We use a broad spectrum of weapons to do exactly what we want to do, it could be anything from a .223 ... and my favorite a 308 or, a nice sharp tungsten steel razor sharp broadhead from a cross or a compound bow. SILENT, VERY SILENT!”

The letter sent to Fassell’s house in June states, “We have already eliminated some of the most ignorant people in the world. You my dear, will soon succumb to the end of your very existence in this world, right along with your husband. I still cannot believe the stupidity of the people in this country to support Donald ... Trump!”

It continues, “I’m gonna be the one to allow you to have another cigarette before you take your last breath,” before referencing her job in nursing. Fassell got attention after her arrest due to a photo of her smoking inside the Capitol.

The typed letters all contained a similar font and were postmarked mostly from Miami using an Earth Day or American flag stamp. Addresses were printed separately and taped to the envelopes. The FBI affidavit described the letters as “anti-right-wing” and “specifically addressed to individuals who are supporters of former president Donald J. Trump.”

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“The Disciples of Democracy are taking matters into their own hands to eliminate you that are disrupting the very existence of our freedom, making a mockery out of our system and embarrassing the citizens of the United States,” an excerpt in court records reads.

One letter went to someone not at the Capitol riot but convicted of voter fraud, stating, “In our eyes there is absolutely no difference from you or those individuals that participated in the January 6 insurrection.”

Officers found a draft of an unsent Disciples of Democracy letter when Bass was arrested at home. He confessed and expressed remorse, records show. Prosecutors agreed to ask for a reduced sentence for Bass as part of a plea deal. He also faces up to a $250,000 fine.

A judge denied Fassell’s request to carry a gun before her sentencing on Dec. 9.