Uniformed Secret Service officers walk along the lawn on the north side of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House fence jumper Omar Gonzalez was sentenced on Tuesday to 17 months in U.S. prison minus time already served for bursting into the executive mansion with a knife last year.
Gonzalez, a 43-year-old Army veteran from Copperas Cove, Texas, has already served nine months of jail time. He could be released in December given good behavior under the sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer.
Collyer said the sentence was long enough to serve as a deterrent and to guarantee that Gonzalez, a decorated Iraq War veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, has no gaps in mental health treatment and medication when he is released.
“We all have some degree of empathy with your situation. You’re in a bad spot,” she told Gonzalez, whose high-profile breach of security in September played a part in a leadership shake-up at the Secret Service.
He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release following his time in prison.
Gonzalez, who was bearded and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, apologized for the White House incident. “I never meant to harm anyone,” he said.
Gonzalez pleaded guilty to charges that he climbed over a White House fence, pushed past a Secret Service agent guarding a door and went into the executive mansion.
Gonzalez was carrying a folding knife when he was tackled by White House guards. He told a Secret Service agent that he needed to tell President Barack Obama that the atmosphere was collapsing.
Collyer rejected an argument by Gonzalez’s attorney, federal public defender David Bos, that he be released at once so that he could travel to California to be with his father.
Collyer said she would recommend to the federal Bureau of Prisons that Gonzalez be imprisoned in California so that when he went to live with his father there would be no gaps in his medication or the danger that he could become homeless.
The 17-month sentence was long enough to guarantee that the prison agency could transport him to California ahead of release, she said.
Police discovered ammunition, a machete, knives and weapons accessories in Gonzalez’ truck. The Obamas were not in the White House when the incident occurred.
Gonzalez pleaded guilty in March to entering a restricted building while carrying a deadly weapon and assaulting a Secret Service agent.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lisa Lambert)