Mentally ill American sentenced for threatening Bush

AFP
Former President George W. Bush waves goodbye on April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas
Former President George W. Bush waves goodbye on April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas (AFP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

New York (AFP) - A bipolar house painter arrested with a loaded rifle was sentenced to one year supervised release in New York on Friday for threatening to kill former president George W. Bush.

Benjamin Smith, 45, has spent six months in custody since his January 31 arrest in Manhattan in possession of a loaded rifle, a machete, two boxes of ammunition and a gasoline container.

He threatened to "kill, kidnap and inflict bodily harm" on the former president and said he wanted to date his daughter Barbara, who heads a non-profit based in New York.

US federal Judge Sidney Stein sentenced him to time served and a one-year supervised release, including six months home detention at his mother's property in New York state.

Dressed in navy prison scrubs, Smith apologized "to anyone I may have offended" when given an opportunity to speak.

"May the good Lord bless America, bless this court and bless Israel. Praise Jesus," he said calmly into the microphone.

He was arrested by Secret Service agents after his mother phoned police discovering that her son had left home and left a note saying he was going to work for Bush and the Pentagon.

"I have to slay a dragon and then Barbara Bush is mine and America is finished," the note said.

The Secret Service tracked him down by phone to Manhattan, where he was arrested sitting in a car. Officers said he screamed out "Bush will get his" when taken into custody.

According to court papers he also said: "I'm divorced and not currently seeing anyone, but I am working on a relationship with Barbara Bush."

It is a federal crime to threaten a current or former US president. Stein told the defendant the Secret Service had no option but take his statements "very seriously."

Smith sported receding brown hair, a ruddy complexion and a small beard and moustache, flecked with white.

Defense lawyer David Wikstrom described his client as a polite, gentle and soft-spoken.

Smith was diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly after arranging to have an empty car driven off a cliff in 2011 and was off his medication when he threatened Bush, Wikstrom said.

The terms of his supervised release require that he follow a mental health program, take medication, wear electronic tagging and not live in a house with firearms or dangerous weapons.

Wikstrom said his client would be released from custody in New York later Friday and transferred to state custody for a separate probation offense related to the cliff incident.