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Jury selection began Tuesday in a federal criminal trial for a man prosecutors say became fixated on a Kansas congressman and threatened to kill him, a case that comes amid what authorities say is a sharp rise in treats to the nation’s lawmakers and their families.

Prosecutors say Chase Neill, 32, threatened to kill U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner in a June 5 voicemail message left at the Republican congressman’s office, then continued to make threatening calls the following day. In one message, presiding U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter said in court Tuesday, he told LaTurner that he would “die by the hand of God.”

Jury selection began in the morning after Neill withdrew a request to act as his own attorney. His court-appointed public defenders notified Teeter of that request Friday and told her they would refuse to work with him in a “hybrid” defense. After a private conference, Teeter told Neill from the bench that she believed such an arrangement would be “untenable.”

After Neill withdrew his request, Teeter told him, “For whatever it’s worth, I think that’s a very wise decision.”

Neill’s trial in U.S. District Court on one count of threatening a public official was scheduled through Friday. It came weeks after Teeter concluded that evidence of mental illness doesn’t mean Neill can’t help his attorney or follow what happens in court.

Before jury selection, Teeter confirmed with prosecutors and Neill’s attorneys that no plea bargains had been offered or sought.

Neill told her, without explaining further, “I believe there were arguable grounds for immunity, but that’s fine.”

In court, Neill wore khaki pants, a dress shirt and a navy blue jacket without a tie. He had a full beard.

A pretrial report said Neill believes he is “the Messiah.” Prosecutors have said in court documents that Neill believes he was “obligated by God” to warn “certain public figures” and detail the results of not heeding his warnings.

Teeter concluded during a hearing last month that “a preponderance of the evidence” showed Neill was mentally competent to stand trial. The official notes from the hearing showed Teeter relied on a psychological evaluation of Neill, but that document is sealed and closed to the public.

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