Man accused in Miss. of threat to president-elect

Published 1:12 am Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Wisconsin man was arrested Friday in Mississippi after authorities said he threatened on the Internet to kill President-elect Barack Obama.

Steven Joseph Christopher, 42, was taken into custody by the Secret Service in Brookhaven, Miss., and charged with threatening to assassinate Obama for what he claimed was “the country’s own good,” federal prosecutors said. The criminal complaint was sealed until Christopher’s appearance in federal court.

Federal Judge James C. Sumner ordered Christopher held until a bail hearing next Thursday.

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“Threats against the president-elect will be taken very seriously,” Dunn Lampton, U.S. attorney for the southern district of Mississippi, said in a release. “Use of Internet chat rooms to express those threats is as much a crime as uttering the words. Threats of this nature will be pursued swiftly and vigorously.”

Online court records in Wisconsin show someone by that name and with the same birthdate lived in Walworth in 2004 and also has lived in Arlington Heights, Ill. The most recent court filing was last February when he was charged in Walworth County with knowingly violating a domestic abuse order. He had a bail forfeiture hearing in that case scheduled next Wednesday, records show.

An affidavit from Secret Service Special Agent Kelly Adcox released by Lampton’s office quotes Christopher as saying he has nothing personal against Obama and that he’s not a racist. Authorities said Christopher made the threats Jan. 11 and 15 on the Web site

“Yes, I have decided I will assassinate Barack Obama. It’s really nothing personal about the man,” Christopher said, according to the release. “But I know it’s for the country’s own good that I do this.”

Authorities didn’t say whether Christopher had weapons, but the affidavit said he wrote in his posting that he did not own a gun and needed one donated.

A reporter was prevented from speaking to Christopher, who appeared in court Friday in shorts and a yellow T-shirt full of holes, or his attorney as they were escorted from the courthouse by authorities.

A message left with prosecutors seeking further comment and contact information for the defense attorney wasn’t immediately returned.

Christopher faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines if convicted on the charge. Authorities say the man was arrested without incident.

It is unclear if he was living in Mississippi or just visiting. No hometown was given.

He used his chat-room postings to also solicit funds for bus fare to Washington, D.C., authorities said.

“And I’ll need a leak in the secret service to get a close up shot, somewhere close to the podium, since I’ve never fired a gun, so I need to an easy shot off,” Christopher was quoted as saying. “Wattdysay fellas? Any help?”