By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York man arrested for threatening to kill former President George W. Bush was sentenced to six months of home confinement on Friday.
Benjamin Smith, who pleaded guilty in April to a gun possession charge, was arrested in January after U.S. Secret Service investigators found him in a parked car in Manhattan with a loaded rifle, a machete and a container of gasoline.
Prosecutors said Smith, a 45-year-old former teacher, screamed “Bush will get his” when he was taken into custody, and later told investigators he was “working on a relationship with Barbara Bush,” an apparent reference to the former president’s daughter.
It is a federal crime to threaten a current or former president.
Smith’s mother called police the day before his arrest after finding a threatening note in the home they shared in upstate New York and discovering that a rifle had gone missing.
“I'm going to work for George W. Bush and the Pentagon," the note said, according to the government. "I have to slay a dragon and then Barbara Bush is mine."
U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein sentenced Smith to the time he served in jail since his arrest as well as a period of six months of house arrest. He also ordered Smith to undergo mental health treatment for a bipolar disorder that Smith’s defense lawyer said had prompted the incident.
In Manhattan federal court on Friday, Smith said he accepted responsibility for his actions.
“I’d like to apologize to the court and to anyone I may have offended,” he said.
Smith still faces a possible penalty in state court for violating probation that he received in connection with “causing his mother’s car to drive over a cliff,” according to court documents.
A previous assault charge against Smith in state court was dismissed after a doctor concluded he lacked capacity owing to his illness, court filings said.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Tom Brown)