A federal judge in Chicago scolded a preacher Wednesday for telling a newspaper "the wrath of God" would soon befall her at her home -- words that led officials this week to beef up security around the judge
As Herman Jackson stood before her clutching a well-worn Bible, Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman told him his comments to the Chicago Sun-Times were "outrageous" and offended "the dignity of the court."
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"This is not a game, sir," she said. "Your words have consequences. ... You are not in your church."
Coleman, who is overseeing Jackson's day-care fraud case, stopped short of revoking his bond and sending him to jail. Prosecutors must decide separately whether to charge him with threatening a judge.
Coleman recently denied Jackson, of Canton, Ga., permission to spend long periods of time visiting his son in Georgia, apparently prompting his outburst to the Sun-Times.
"Because of Judge Sharon Coleman's continual mocking of God's ecclesiastical order and the sanctity of family/marriage, the wrath of God almighty shall soon visit her home," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
After Jackson hesitated to speak at Wednesday's hearing, Coleman said she understood his reluctance.
"He often opens mouth and inserts foot," she said. "But this court deserves an apology."
With that, Jackson told Coleman he didn't consider his comments a threat.
"To me, `wrath' ... does not mean blowing something up, to shoot or stab," he said. "I would never -- ever, ever -- think about putting my hands on you or let someone else put their hands on you."
Coleman said she accepted that as "some sort of an apology." But she went on to say Jackson's fate on the question of whether he threatened her would be left up to others at the federal courthouse.
Jackson, who is in his mid-30s and bishop of the Ark of Safety Apostolic Faith Temple in Cicero, has pleaded not guilty to fraudulently receiving Illinois state subsidies for several day care centers.
Several times Wednesday, Coleman alluded to another judge still on the federal bench in Chicago, Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow. Her husband and mother were killed in her home in 2005 by an attacker who had been a plaintiff in a lawsuit Lefkow dismissed.
Referring to the accusation Jackson had threatened her, Coleman told him, "They take this very seriously, especially in this building."