A 33-year-old Ohio man was sentenced Friday to nearly three years in prison for launching a driverless Jeep down Pennsylvania Avenue, causing it to crash into a White House security gate at 40 mph, according to federal prosecutors.
Authorities said Joseph Clifford Reel was trying to create a diversion in the early morning hours of June 9 so he could paint a “Don’t tread on me snake” on the side of the White House. He was arrested in the north courtyard with a spray-paint can wrapped in duct tape.
A sentencing memorandum filed in U.S. District Court says Reel rigged a wooden 2-by-4 attached to the accelerator with a nylon strap hooded from the seat and steering wheel. Authorities said he got the car moving by reaching in through the driver’s side window and shifting it from park into drive using an ice scraper.
Prosecutors said the Jeep was filled with hundreds of bullets, eight knives, two machetes and a hand-held scope. The Jeep struck a light post and a bicycle rack next to a Secret Service guard shack, causing more than $5,000 in damage. As the Jeep struck the post, authorities said Reel jumped the White House fence and ran onto the complex.
Before leaving Ohio for Washington, federal prosecutors said Reel videotaped a manifesto that was posted on YouTube and was in part an oral letter to his then 4-month-old son. On the video, he railed against the Obama administration, saying, “Every once in a while, bad people take over. . . . And every once in a while, regular people have to get up and say, ‘No.’ ”
Reel complained of the government “stifling” the tea party and buying 7,000 tanks to use against citizens. He called himself “just a regular guy” with “nothing to lose.”
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