Threat to kill Obama nets local man five years of prison
A Central Texas man who threatened to kill former President Barack Obama, judges, federal prosecutors and agents, among others, was sentenced Tuesday to 63 months in federal prison.
Gavin Leonard Friedman, 21, who has lived in Kerrville and Austin, mailed letters with a series of threats over several months in 2016. In September 2016, for example, he sent letters to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Antonio expressing some threats while he was incarcerated at the Kerr County Jail.
In some of those letters, he called Obama “a puppet for (ZOG) Zionist Organized Government,” referred to Obama derogatorily or profanely, and said he would kill Obama so Friedman could be “martyred in the name of Allah,” court records show.
In one letter in September 2016, he threatened to harm Obama: “I am going to kill him, and detonate a(n) explosive device at the White House.” That letter includes a crude drawing of an ammonium nitrate explosive device, detonation device and ignitor. The letter also contains threats against the FBI field office in Houston, CIA headquarters, NSA headquarters, the Pentagon, judges, federal prosecutors (including the prosecutor he mailed the letter to, U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin of San Antonio) and agents, according to a criminal complaint affidavit.
When a federal marshal interviewed Friedman at the Kerr jail on Sept. 29, 2016, Friedman said: “ I do want you to know that I have every intention of doing what I said I was going to do in those letters.”
But in a letter to the court this February, Friedman said he wished to plead guilty to all federal charges but wanted to stay in federal custody instead of state or county jails.
“I am sorry and remorseful for the crimes I have committed and the people that I scared in the (process),” he wrote. “I do not intend to carry out any of the threats and will seek help for mental health disorders and other problems that I face.”
He pleaded guilty in July to four of the seven charges he faced, including making a threat against the president, mailing threats about blowing up the FBI building in Houston and the White House, and two counts of mailing threats to kill prosecutor Durbin and kidnap and kill his family.
Senior U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra said it was fortunate Friedman did not carry out his threats.
“Threatening a public official, such as the president of the United States, regardless of one’s view, whether you like them or don’t like them, it’s a very serious matter,” Ezra said. “In the past, courts have seen this as transitory... and not taken it as seriously. The world has changed dramatically. Guns are readily available. ... Public officials have become targets.”
The judge said Americans are free to participate in discourse and peaceful protest, but not with violence or threats of violence: “The way we reconcile our differences is at the ballot box.”
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