WASHINGTON (AP) — An Idaho man is facing at least 10 years in prison after acknowledging that he shot an assault rifle at the White House two years ago.
Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez pleaded guilty Wednesday to two of the 19 charges against him as a result of the shooting. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors will drop the remaining charges. That includes the most serious charge he faced, attempting to assassinate the president, which carried a potential life sentence.
No one was injured in the shooting, but it left a number of bullet marks on the executive mansion. President Barack Obama and his wife were in California at the time of the shooting, but other members of the first family were there that night.
Prosecutors previously said Ortega-Hernandez, 22, a resident of Idaho Falls, told acquaintances before the shooting that President Obama was the Antichrist and "the devil" and that he needed to kill him. But one of his lawyers, Robert Feitel, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that his client's statements were "loose talk" and that he never had any intention to hurt anybody.
"He's really remorseful," Feitel said. "His thinking was not clear at the time."
As part of the plea agreement, Ortega-Hernandez acknowledged that on the night of Nov. 11, 201, he drove his Honda Accord to an area south of the White House and opened fire with the weapon through his lowered passenger window, firing at least eight rounds at the second and third stories of the home. Ortega-Hernandez then sped off but crashed his car a short distance away and fled on foot. He was arrested in Pennsylvania.
On Wednesday, Ortega-Hernandez pleaded guilty to one count of destruction of property and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. The second carries a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. Federal sentencing guidelines recommend a sentence ranging from 24 to 27 ½ years. The plea agreement comes just before Ortega-Hernandez's trial was scheduled to begin on Sept. 30.
U.S. Attorney Ron Machen said in a statement that anyone who comes to Washington "planning to use violence to send a message, should expect to spend decades behind bars."
The judge overseeing the case, Rosemary M. Collyer, set sentencing for Jan. 10.
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