A 60-year-old longtime felon has admitted to unleashing a string of threats last summer to kill "all the judges, clerks and deputies" among other public employees in Hennepin County.
Peter R. Berry of Minneapolis pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis to interstate transmission of threats in connection with telephone calls he allegedly made over several days in late June to various county offices.
Berry also admitted to possessing firearms as a felon, based on allegations that he possessed two pistols and a rifle in the months leading up to when he allegedly called in his threats.
Sentencing has yet to be scheduled for Berry, who remains in federal custody in the Sherburne County jail.
Berry's criminal history spans several decades and includes convictions in the metro area for burglary, drug possession, possession of burglary tools, making terroristic threats, violating restraining orders and making harassing phone calls.
While the Hennepin County Government Center is accessible at the street and skyway levels without screening, there are deputies posted there along with security personnel during business hours and at other times.
Access to the courthouse and its offices requires passing through staffed metal detectors, which were installed in 2005 after a 2003 shooting there. Susan R. Berkovitz, 52, of St. Paul killed her cousin, Shelley Joseph-Kordell, and wounded her cousin's attorney, Richard Hendrickson, after a long legal battle over the $170,000 estate of Berkovitz's father.
Berkovitz, now 71, was convicted in 2004 and is serving a life sentence in the Shakopee prison.
According to the indictment against Berry and other court documents:
A warrant was issued on June 24, 2021, for Berry's arrest after he failed to appear for a Hennepin County court hearing stemming from his arrest the previous summer, when he was living in an RV on a Minneapolis street and in possession of a handgun, ammunition, other people's credit cards and several dozen oxycodone pills.
Berry called a Hennepin County Community Corrections employee inquiring about his court appearance and threatened to "shoot up the place, and it will be on your hands. … What are you going to do, come down to Florida and get me?"
That same day, Berry left a voice message for a county probation officer and demanded a call back before he starts "killing everybody."
The next day he called a Hennepin County Service Center employee who informed him of the active arrest warrant. In response, Berry said he was going to "come down and kill everybody, all the judges, clerks and deputies."
On June 29, 2021, Berry left a voice message for a county public defender and expressed dissatisfaction with the representation he received in his criminal case and threatened that people were going to die. "You are going to be disbarred," he said. "I want accountability and transparency or people are going to die. Don't worry … I know where you live."
Berry was arrested the next day in Indiana, where he had with him a handgun, a semiautomatic rifle and ammunition for both weapons.
"During his arrest, [Berry] told police officers that he was serious about his threats and that he was going to shoot up the court," one prosecution court document read.