By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A California man armed with a handgun who planned to kill Brett Kavanaugh was charged with attempted murder on Wednesday after being arrested near the U.S. Supreme Court justice's Maryland home, voicing dismay about expected rulings curtailing abortion access and expanding gun rights, authorities said.
The man, identified as 26-year-old Nicholas Roske of the Los Angeles suburb of Simi Valley, was carrying a handgun he had purchased for the purpose of killing Kavanaugh as well as ammunition, a crow bar, pepper spray and other items, according to an affidavit signed by an FBI agent.
Kavanaugh's home in the Washington suburb of Chevy Chase has been the site of some protests by abortion-rights advocates since the May 2 publication of a leaked draft opinion indicating the court was poised to overturn its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
Roske told authorities he was upset about the draft opinion as well as about last month's mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, the affidavit said. It described him as concerned that Kavanaugh would vote against gun regulations in a major firearms rights case also due to be decided in the coming weeks.
Roske said he came up with the plan after "thinking about how to give his life a purpose," according to the affidavit.
A criminal complaint filed in federal court in Maryland said Roske faced a charge of attempting to kidnap or murder a U.S. judge, an offense carrying a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, according to prosecutors. Roske made an initial court appearance on Wednesday afternoon and agreed to continued detention, with another hearing set for June 22.
"Threats of violence and actual violence against the justices, of course, strike at the heart of our democracy," U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters when asked about the arrest.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden "condemns the actions of this individual in the strongest terms" and supports pending legislation in Congress that would improve security for the justices.
"Any threats of violence or attempts to intimidate justices have no place in our society," Jean-Pierre added.
Roske was taken into custody near the justice's home and transported to a police station in Maryland's Montgomery County, with the case subsequently transferred to the FBI, local police said.
"At approximately 1:50 a.m. today, a man was arrested near Justice Kavanaugh's residence. The man was armed and made threats against Justice Kavanaugh," court spokesperson Patricia McCabe added.
The affidavit said that Roske himself called police after he saw U.S. marshals outside Kavanaugh's house. Roske told the dispatcher he was suicidal and intended to kill Kavanaugh, according to the affidavit. Montgomery County police took him into custody without incident, the affidavit said.
Abortion-rights supporters have held protests outside Kavanaugh's home and those of at least two other justices, while also rallying outside the courthouse since the publication of the leaked draft.
Kavanaugh, a conservative jurist appointed by former President Donald Trump, has served on the court since 2018.
The U.S. Justice Department said on May 11 that it was increasing security for Supreme Court justices following the leaked draft opinion. Garland, whose own nomination to the court in 2016 was turned away by Senate Republicans, directed the U.S. Marshals Service to provide additional support to the court's existing police force, the department said.
Abortion-rights supporters have held demonstrations in Washington and other cities since the draft was leaked, incensed that a right recognized for half a century was poised to be erased by the court's increasingly assertive conservative justices.
The court building is now surrounded by high black fencing. A protester on Monday chained himself by the neck to that perimeter fence.
The draft opinion, authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito and published by the Politico news outlet, would uphold a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and overturn the Roe decision that recognized a woman's constitutional right to obtain an abortion.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone)