Charges filed against Seattle Fire Dept. employee over threatening emails to Kshama Sawant

Feb 17, 2021, 5:36 PM
Kshama Sawant recall, threatening emails...
(KIRO Radio/Matt Pitman)
(KIRO Radio/Matt Pitman)

The King County Prosecutor’s Office filed charges Wednesday against Seattle Fire Department employee Andrew Finseth, over threatening emails sent to Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

Sawant calls for investigation after threats from city email account

Finseth, 42, faces two counts of cyberstalking and one count of second-degree identity theft. The latter of those charges is a felony, while cyberstalking constitutes a gross misdemeanor.

The emails began on Dec. 17, 2020, with escalating language that culminated in a threat against Councilmember Sawant’s life on Jan. 18, 2021.

“The time is here, and you will not have a place after tomorrow council woman,” the Jan. 18 email read. “Announce your resignation now, or else.”

The messages originated from a Seattle Fire Department account, although SFD contacted Sawant on Dec. 31, telling her that the employee was “claiming he did not send the emails” himself, implying that the account was hacked.

In an interview with police after being arrested, Finseth admitted to authoring a total of six threatening emails to Sawant from his colleague’s account, intending to get his fellow Fire Department Employee “punished by his chain of command and held accountable for ‘something,’ because (he) was always getting away with things.”

He had accessed the email account by calling the city’s IT department falsely claiming to be his colleague and asking for a password reset.

Sawant claims police slowed investigation into threats

“Finseth reported that he did not have any intentions of harming Sawant and did not want harm to come to her,” charging documents read, stating that he had chosen Sawant to receive the threatening emails because the employee whose email account he’d hacked into lived in her district.

Finseth also sent two transfer request emails from his colleague’s email account “in order to get (him) involuntarily transferred to a different station.”

The history between the two men appeared to be fraught, which included an internal SFD investigation stemming from an alleged physical altercation between them, after Finseth was said to have “made derogatory comments” about the fellow employee’s religion during an emergency call. The findings of that investigation were deemed inconclusive.

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Charges filed against Seattle Fire Dept. employee over threatening emails to Kshama Sawant