A comparison of email versus letter threat contacts toward members of the United States Congress

Katherine A. Schoeneman-Morris, Mario J. Scalora, Grace H. Chang, William J. Zimmerman, Yancey Garner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


To better understand inappropriate correspondence sent to public officials, 301 letter cases and 99 email cases were randomly selected from the United States Capitol Police investigative case files and compared. Results indicate that letter writers were significantly more likely than emailers to exhibit indicators of serious mental illness (SMI), engage in target dispersion, use multiple methods of contact, and make a problematic approach toward their target. Emailers were significantly more likely than letter writers to focus on government concerns, use obscene language, and display disorganization in their writing. Also, letter writers tended to be significantly older, have more criminal history, and write longer communications. A multivariate model found that disorganization, SMI symptoms, problematic physical approach, and target dispersion significantly differentiated between the correspondence groups. The group differences illuminated by this study reveal that letter writers are engaging in behavior that is higher risk for problematic approach than are emailers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1142-1147
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Email
  • Forensic science
  • Government official
  • Problematic approach
  • Risk assessment
  • Targeted violence
  • Threat assessment
  • Threat management
  • Threats
  • Written communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Genetics


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