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    Presidents in Crosshairs: Man Who Threatened to Murder Trump on Run From FBI

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    In June, US citizen Shawn Christy posted a series of death threats targeted at Donald Trump on Facebook, stating he was going to shoot the controversial President in the head, and use "lethal force" against any law enforcement official who attempted to detain him. He is now on the run from authorities.

    A federal arrest warrant was issued for Shawn Christy June 19, after he was charged with ‘Interstate Communication of Threats' and ‘Threats Against the President of the United States' — other targets of Christy's menace included a police chief, several law enforcement officers and Northampton County's district attorney.

    "I promise I'll put a bullet in your head as soon as I put one in the head of President Donald J. Trump," he wrote to the DA on Facebook.

    Said to be "considered armed and dangerous," the FBI has offered a reward of US$10,000 for information leading to his capture. The warrant — and inducement — did not lead to Christy's arrest, and authorities believe he has now stolen a truck from a Pennsylvania business that he may have burglarized at the start of September, stealing food, money and a shotgun.

    Shawn Christy's FBI Wanted Poster
    Shawn Christy's FBI Wanted Poster

    Repeat Offender

    Christy is also wanted in Pennsylvania for burglary, probation violation, and failure to appear for an aggravated assault case. Moreover, it's not the first time the 27-year-old has threatened prominent US politicians.

    In 2010, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin obtained a restraining order against him and his father, Craig, after the pair bombarded her and friend Kristan Cole with unwelcome and threatening phone calls and emails — which included threats to rape the 2008 Vice Presidential candidate. The next year, the pair were indicted by a federal grand jury for making hundreds of harassing, expletive-filled, and threatening phone calls to Palin's attorney John Tiemessen and employees of his law firm in early August, for their role in securing the restraining order.

    U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin acknowledge the crowd during a campaign rally for McCain at the Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Arizona March 26, 2010
    © REUTERS / Joshua Lott
    U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin acknowledge the crowd during a campaign rally for McCain at the Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Arizona March 26, 2010
    Threatening the US President is a class E felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a US$250,000 maximum fine, and three years of supervised release — a ban on internet and/or telephone access may also be imposed. Such stiff penalties have done little to deter US citizens, with the total number of reported threats made against Presidents rising around six-fold between 1965 and 1969 to 12,800, and increasing exponentially ever since. For instance, George W. Bush is said to have received about 3,000 threats per year, while Barack Obama received about four times that amount, amounting to roughly 30 threats per day.

    No Defense?

    Nonetheless, arrests and prosecutions of Presidential frighteners are by no means certain in all cases. For instance, in July 2003, the Los Angeles Times published a cartoon by conservative Michael Ramirez that depicted a man pointing a gun at President Bush's head, which emulated the iconic 1969 photo of South Vietnamese National Police Chief Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner at point-blank range. The cartoon elicited a visit from the Secret Service, but no charges were filed.

    Similarly, in October 2004, British comedian Charlie Brooker wrote a column in The Guardian about the impending 2004 US presidential election, which George W. Bush was widely predicted to win comfortably — it concluded with the line "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley, Jr. — where are you now that we need you?". A Florida attorney reported the column to the Secret Service, which apparently contacted the newspaper — in any event, the article was quickly withdrawn from The Guardian website, and an apology from Brooker was published.

    Surrounded by detectives, Lee Harvey Oswald talks to the press as he is led down a corridor of the Dallas police station for another round of questioning in connection with the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, November 23, 1963.
    © AP Photo /
    Surrounded by detectives, Lee Harvey Oswald talks to the press as he is led down a corridor of the Dallas police station for another round of questioning in connection with the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, November 23, 1963.
    "I [recycled] a very old tasteless joke (a variant of a graffiti I first saw during the Thatcher years), and within minutes half the internet seemed convinced The Guardian was officially calling for assassination. My inbox overflowed with blood-curdling death threats, and it was all very unfunny indeed — a bit like recounting a rude joke at a dinner party, only to be told you hadn't recounted a joke at all, but molested the host's children, and suddenly everyone was punching you and you weren't going to get any pudding. I've had better weekends," Brooker has since written.

    Conversely, some have indeed been prosecuted and imprisoned for their threatening activities. In 2007, Purdue University teaching assistant Vikram Buddhi was convicted of posting messages to Yahoo Finance criticizing the Iraq War and calling for the assassination of George W. Bush and the rape and murder of his daughter Laura.

    In 2010, Johnny Logan Spencer Jr. was sentenced to 33 months for posting a poem entitled "The Sniper" about Barack Obama's assassination on a white supremacist website. He apologized in court, stating he'd written the poem due to upset over his mother's death, and had fallen in with a white supremacist group after its members helped him kick a drug habit.

    Former US President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Illinois, US, September 7, 2018
    Former US President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Illinois, US, September 7, 2018
    Later that year, Brian Dean Miller was sentenced to 27 months for posting an ad on Craigslist which stated "the time has come for revolution" and "Obama to die".

    "I am dedicating my life to the death of Obama and every employee of the federal government. As I promised in a previous post, if the health care reform bill passed I would become a terrorist. Today I become a terrorist," he explained.

    Furthermore, there are several documented instances of prison inmates being convicted for threatening the President, even though they lack the ability to personally carry out such a threat — and courts have upheld such convictions, on the basis actual ability to carry out a threat is not an element of the offense, but the implied intention is.

    There are even cases of prisoners levelling threats at Presidents to manipulate the criminal justice system — an inmate claiming to be "institutionalized" threatened Bill Clinton in order to remain in prison, and in 1993 a state prisoner threatened Bill Clinton because he wanted to be ‘upgraded' to a federal institution.

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    Tags:
    online threats, online abuse, cyber threats, assassination, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, United States
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