On Wednesday, a man named Aniruddha Sherbow was arrested in Mexico for allegedly making threats against Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a freshman congresswoman who House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has described as a “rising star.”
According to the FBI and U.S. Capitol Police, Sherbow’s arrest was a result of unspecified threats made earlier this month. However, Sherbow has a history with Gabbard that began with their apparent ties to a controversial Hare Krishna sect in Hawaii and most recently peaked with him vowing to cut off her head.A press release issued by the FBI and Capitol Police said Sherbow was arrested in Tijuana on Wednesday pursuant to a U.S. arrest warrant for the “charge of transmission of threats in interstate commerce. The FBI and Capitol Police said the “alleged threats occurred on August 1 and August 3, 2013 and were deemed credible.”
According to a story by the news website Hawaii Reporter earlier this month, Sherbow sent an email to the FBI on Aug. 2 in which he threatened to decapitate Gabbard.
“I, Aniruddha Sherbow, with the Divine as my witness, do hereby solemnly vow to find Tulsi Gabbard, wheresoever she may be, and to sever her head from her body,” Sherbow wrote, according to an excerpt of the email published by the Hawaii Reporter.
In a follow-up story on Sherbow’s arrest, published Thursday, Hawaii Reporter said it had exclusively corresponded with Sherbow in a “series of emails” in which he detailed the reasons behind his anger at Gabbard. Sherbow described her as a “Prima Donna” who made him feel “insignificant” and said he offered to volunteer for Gabbard when she was a member of the Honolulu City Council. Gabbard served on the council from 2011 until 2012 before resigning to run for Congress.
In March 2011, a district court issued a three-year injunction against Sherbow, barring him from contacting or threatening Gabbard. According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, Gabbard said Sherbow contacted her more than 35 times over a less-than-three-week period, including communications that were “extremely inappropriate, profane, vulgar and sexual in nature.” Gabbard said Sherbow first contacted her asking to rent office space from her.
After weeks of texting Gabbard, Sherbow allegedly showed up to a city council meeting where Gabbard was in attendance. Police spoke to him at the meeting, which Gabbard said caused him to send her an angry text message. Sherbow was arrested March 4, 2011 and charged with harassment.
Sherbow told the Hawaii Reporter he initially approached Gabbard because he “was born into the same obscure Western-Hindu tradition as Tulsi, the Hare Krishna Movement, also known as the Brahma Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya.”
“Because of this last connection, I think she is counting on me not hurting her. And she is right to count on it, because it is in fact very difficult for me to hurt her. However, we all have our limits, and I have reached mine,” Sherbow wrote. “At this point, if you stuck Tulsi’s head in front of me, I’d have it off in two seconds flat.”
Gabbard’s parents reportedly have extensive ties to a splinter Hare Krishna sect led by a guru named Chris Butler. This Hawaii-based group, which has variously been known as the Hare Name Society, Identity Institute and the Science of Identity Foundation has sparked controversy over the years and is is sometimes described as a cult. The links between Gabbard’s family and Butler’s sect were detailed in a 2004 Honolulu Magazine profile of the congresswoman’s father, Mike Gabbard, who is a member of the Hawaii state Senate and former councilman and who fought efforts to legalize gay marriage in Hawaii.
In forums on the website Topix.com, a user identified as Aniruddha Sherbow described being accused of threatening Gabbard in a series of messages dated July 2012. In one of those postings, Sherbow also discussed his relationship to Butler’s group.
“I was born into ISKCON,” wrote Sherbow, referring to the International Society for Krishna Consiciousness, which is the group Butler was initially affiliated with. “Don’t have much to do with it anymore though.”
The nature of Tulsi Gabbard’s ties to Butler’s group are less clear. In its profile of the congresswoman’s father, Honolulu Magazine noted he described himself as Catholic. When Honolulu Magazine asked the elder Gabbard about his ties to Butler’s Hare Krishna sect, the publication said it received a reply from Tulsi Gabbard accusing them of pursuing the story because they opposed her father’s work fighting same-sex marriage.
“I smell a skunk,” Tulsi Gabbard wrote, according to the magazine. “It’s clear to me that you’re acting as a conduit for The Honolulu Weekly and other homosexual extremist supporters of Ed Case.”
Hare Krishna is based on Hindu scriptures including the Bhagavad Gita. Gabbard describes herself as Hindu and, in January, she was sworn in on the Bhagavad Gita. Gabbard said she chose the book because it led her on a “spiritual journey.”
“I was raised in a multiracial, multicultural, multi-faith family. My mother is Hindu; my father is a Catholic lector in his church who also practices mantra meditation. I began to grapple with questions of spirituality as a teenager,” Gabbard said, according to the Huffington Post. “Over time, I came to believe that, at its essence, religion gives us a deeper purpose in life than just living for ourselves. Since I was a teenager, I embraced this spiritual journey through the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.”
Gabbard’s spokeswoman, Heather Fluit, did not respond to a question from TPM Thursday about whether the congresswoman identifies as either a Hare Krishna or a follower of Butler.
Sherbow evidently had hard feelings about his initial arrest for allegedly harassing Gabbard. He told the Hawaii Reporter he was forced to leave the U.S. because of newspaper coverage of the case and said Gabbard misrepresented the incident.
“You know, what she did basically took my entire life, and it has had repercussions all around me, to everyone connected to me,” Sherbow told the Reporter. “I want my life back, I don’t like being tortured, and I don’t like those connected to me having to suffer. Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that I don’t think people elected her to character assassinate people, or to pick on people. She is in a trusted position.”
Sherbow described similar gripes on Topix. In a July 2012 posting entitled, “Tulsi Gabbard has Committed a ‘Felony in Office,'” Sherbow accused Gabbard of lying about him.
“I publicly accuse Tulsi Gabbard of having committed a ‘Felony in Office,’ namely the crime of perjury. I tried to help her about a year ago, and I criticized her for not being responsive, something which many people have commented about,” Sherbow wrote. “Anyways, she made up a bunch of crap about me being physical threat because she knows that’s all the cops care about. I got arrested, people were after me, I left Hawaii, etc. She’s had a year to put things straight, and has done absolutely nothing. Now it’s gotten to the point where many others are being affected, because they believe, and I cannot help them.”
Sherbow also argued Gabbard should be forced out of politics.
“She’s been getting tons of praise and accolades. She is completely undeserving of any of them,” wrote Sherbow. “She has shamelessly abused the trust that the people placed in her. Now she should go get a real job.”
Gabbard’s spokeswoman, Fluit, declined to comment on Sherbow Thursday.
“We do not have comment on the arrest, but the congresswoman is grateful for the work of the U.S. Capitol Police, FBI, and all law enforcement officers involved in this investigation,” Fluit wrote in an email to TPM.
Fluit referred TPM to the Capitol Police for any “additional questions.” A spokesman for the Capitol Police said they could not provide any information on the arrest beyond what was in the initial press release.