WELLINGTON – A New Zealand man on Thursday was sentenced to one year in prison for threatening to kill Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prosecutors said Michael Cruickshank, 56, sent 88 lengthy emails to government officials in 2019 and 2020, calling them criminals, slave-traders and state-sanctioned terrorists. But it was two emails that he sent in January 2020 that crossed a line by threatening violence.
In one email, Cruickshank threatened to blow Ardern’s head off and in another said he would “personally wipe you off this f------ planet,” The New Zealand Herald reported. He copied one of the emails to lawmaker Andrew Little, who is now the health minister.
“You have kids who want to see you grow old, as do I,” Cruickshank wrote. “I suggest you place that into proper perspective.”
Cruickshank wore all black and rocked back and forth on his feet during the sentencing hearing at the Auckland District Court, the Herald reported.
Judge Brooke Gibson said Cruickshank wouldn't be a good candidate for home detention. The judge cited reports prepared for the sentencing hearing which indicated Cruickshank had been angry for decades with agencies after suffering an accident in 1995 and being unsatisfied with the subsequent support he got.
“You have a complete lack of insight. You have a high sense of entitlement,” the judge said, citing the reports, according to the Herald. “You simply don’t recognize acceptable boundaries.”
The judge said Cruickshank's anger had manifested itself in “a relentless campaign of emails."
He was already known to a staffer at the prime minister's office who vetted correspondence and first came across his “usually angry but not threatening” emails during the tenure of Helen Clark, who was prime minister from 1999 until 2008.
The judge also noted Cruickshank’s claim at his trial that he was drunk and had no memory of writing the two emails. Intoxication was not a defense, the judge said.
Ardern was first elected prime minister in 2017 and won a second term in 2020 in a landslide of historic proportions, thanks to her government's success at the time in battling the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, her popularity has faded somewhat but she still remains the preferred leader in most opinion polls.