A former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) security contractor pleaded guilty to threatening to bomb the Athens-Clarke County DSCC headquarters while the U.S. Senators from Georgia were in town for campaign events.
Jessica Diane Higginbotham aka Jessica Harriod aka Jessica Jones, 35, of Elberton, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count of communicating a bomb today before U.S. District Judge Tilman E. “Tripp” Self III. Higginbotham faces a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 7.
“The bomb threat was leveled by an employee for a political organization days before a federal election in Georgia; this incident was a targeted effort to disturb the peace and disrupt the democratic process,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “The immediate response and seamless collaboration by all levels of law enforcement safeguarded the community and helped bring the defendant to justice.”
“The FBI takes all threat-to-life matters very seriously,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “This guilty plea demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to hold accountable anyone who tries to intimidate public officials and undermine the foundation of our democracy. It also shows that threatening others with violence and physical harm will have serious repercussions.”
“The Athens-Clarke County Police Department is deeply committed to ensuring the safety and security of all individuals in our community. This incident was a grave and concerning matter; however, thanks to the swift response and collaborative efforts, the threat was successfully investigated, and the individual responsible was apprehended,” said ACCPD Police Chief Jerry Saulters. “We will continue to work diligently to safeguard our community and uphold the values that bind us together. Acts of violence and threats have no place in our society, and we stand united against those who seek to harm others or disrupt our democratic processes.”
According to court documents, on Dec. 3, 2022, at 6:01 p.m., an employee of the DSCC in Athens received a text message: “Hello, I am writing this message to you to let you know that I am coming by either tonight or in the morning to set a bomb up. So I can blow all the Democrats up. I have other people going to other offices also. If I can’t stop you by breaking in and destroying the property then I will blow every one up. So be ready to be blown up. This is going to either happen tonight or in the morning. Hope you like being on the wrong team.”
The FBI began investigating the threat immediately, and officers with the Athens-Clarke County Police Department (ACCPD) responded to the area of the threat. The U.S. Senate runoff election was scheduled to take place on Dec. 6, and elected officials were in Athens participating in campaign events, including both U.S. Senators from Georgia on Dec. 4. Using a series of emergency disclosure requests (EDRs), FBI agents discovered the cell phone belonged to the defendant, who was also employed as a contract security officer for the DSCC. The U.S. Capitol Police were also investigating the bomb threat, and independently determined that the bomb threat was sent from Higginbotham’s cell phone.
On Dec. 4, FBI task force officers located Higginbotham at a coffee shop in Athens with the cell phone in her hands. When she saw the agents approach her, she vomited. At first, she denied sending the bomb threat. A federal search warrant was executed on her cell phone, which linked the email account used in the bomb threat to her. While investigating the bomb threat, agents learned that there had been a break-in at the DSCC building in Athens on Nov. 27, and a laptop belonging to the DSCC was stolen. At the time of the burglary, investigators noted that it appeared to be staged as tables were turned over, but the building was locked with no evidence of a forced entry. Investigators later recovered the stolen laptop with Higginbotham’s personal items. Higginbotham now admits that she used a cell phone to willfully threaten to kill or injure people and unlawfully destroy a building with an explosive.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Capitol Police, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputy Criminal Chief Will R. Keyes is prosecuting the case.