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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.