Idaho man who fired eight shots at White House pleads guilty

Oscar Ortega-Hernandez
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This United States Park Police photograph, obtained by Reuters November 16, 2011, shows Oscar Ortega-Hernandez. Police on Wednesday arrested the 21-year old Ortega-Hernandez, who is suspected of shooting at the White House last week, after federal agents found two bullets that had hit the mansion, including one that struck a window. Ortega-Hernandez was picked up by Pennsylvania state troopers at a hotel near Indiana, Pennsylvania, some four hours drive time from Washington, the U.S. Secret Service said. REUTERS/United States Park Police/Handout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An Idaho man, who had in the past praised the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to shooting at the White House two years ago, charges that could bring more than 20 years in a federal prison.

Oscar Ortega-Hernandez, 22, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, was charged with shooting at the White House on November 11, 2011 with a semi-automatic weapon. At least eight rounds hit the building and two bullets were recovered, the Washington U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were in California at the time and no one was injured. Ortega-Hernandez, who had fired from his car south of the White House, was arrested five days later in Pennsylvania.

Ortega-Hernandez pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a charge of injury to a dwelling and placing lives in danger, as well as a firearms charge. He admitted the attack was a terrorist act, meaning he could face added punishment under sentencing guidelines, the statement said.

Before the shooting, Ortega-Hernandez had vilified Obama and was contemptuous of the U.S. government, the statement said. In October 2011, he made videos in which he praised bin Laden for standing up to the United States and called for a revolution against the federal government, the statement said.

Seventeen other criminal charges were dropped. Ortega-Hernandez faces 24 to 27-1/2 years in prison, and sentencing is scheduled for January 10, 2014.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)