BOCA RATON, Fla. (CBS Tampa) - A homeless man who was arrested after threatening the life of President Barack Obama claimed that he only did so in order to get needed medical attention.
The prisoner, 57-year-old Stephen Espalin, reportedly told the court his story Friday while addressing Senior U.S. District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp.
“I would have no intent to hurt the president,” Espalin was quoted as saying by the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I realize it wasn’t the right thing to do. I uttered those words knowing the [federal agents] would come and take care of me.”
His threat allegedly extended to Obama’s family – his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Sasha and Malia – and their dog, Bo. He had also claimed to police that he sent a heat-activated bomb to the White House to commit the murders.
Espalin additionally told the court that, before uttering the threat, he had tried to get treatment for chest pains at a hospital in Boca Raton, but was being ejected from their care after hospital officials discovered he had given a false name and lied about having health insurance.
The ailing prisoner reportedly has a checkered past – prosecutors noted that he is a criminal sex offender who failed to register his updated living conditions with the proper authorities, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Prosecuting attorneys additionally felt that Espalin was “so off-balance” that he may have followed through with this threat.
The defense disagreed, however.
“I think it is clearly apparent [he] had personally no intent and clearly had no ability to carry out a threat against the president,” Assistant Federal Public Defender Robin Rosen-Evans was quoted as saying at the sentencing hearing.
The paper also learned that Espalin has used this trick before. He had allegedly threatened former President George W. Bush in 2001 – also in hopes of receiving medical care – and served 18 months in a federal prison for doing so. And he had threatened Obama and his family in the past, during a particularly cold day in December of 2010.
The judge sentenced Espalin to a total of four years and three months in a federal prison – the maximum sentence for his infraction. He was also reportedly ordered to undergo mental health treatment.
But ultimately, Espalin’s plan worked – the Sun-Sentinel reported that he now has a wheelchair, and underwent chemotherapy treatments while awaiting sentencing in the federal facility. He will also allegedly go through heart surgery.