Pennsylvania man arrested for alleged threats to kill Rep. Cantor
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
A Philadelphia man was charged Monday with threatening to kill Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and his family in the first such arrest since an outbreak of harassment and vandalism began against members of Congress more than a week ago.
Norman Leboon, 33, posted a YouTube video last week in which he threatened to shoot Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, and his family.
An affidavit released Monday did not say why Leboon allegedly wanted to harm Cantor, the only Jewish Republican member of Congress, but in the video, he calls Cantor "pure evil."
"Remember Eric . . . our judgment time, the final Yom Kippur has been given," he says in the profanity-laced video. "You are a liar, you're a pig . . . you're an abomination. You receive my bullets in your office, remember they will be placed in your heads. You and your children are Lucifer's abominations."
The battle over health care has led to a spate of threats against members of Congress, mostly Democrats. At least 10 House Democrats reported death threats, or incidents of harassment or vandalism at their district offices last week, including thrown bricks, a cut gas line and threatening letters and calls.
Cantor engaged in a war of words with Democratic leaders last week, accusing Democratic National Committee Chairman Timothy M. Kaine and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) of "fanning the flames" and politicizing the subject of threats.
Democrats suggested Cantor was seeking to exploit the issue by staging a news conference to say his Richmond campaign office had been fired at last Tuesday. Police later determined that a stray bullet hit his office.
On Monday, both Democrats condemned the newly revealed threats to Cantor.
"There is absolutely no room in America for threats, intimidation or violence, and it is incumbent upon all of us to speak out against both violent acts and incendiary rhetoric," Van Hollen spokesman Doug Thornell said.
The FBI received a copy of the video Friday, and investigators used their databases and a recent arrest photo to determine that the man in the video was Leboon, who was arrested Saturday at his home. He previously was arrested, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, on charges of terrorist threats, assault and recklessly endangering another person.
"The Department of Justice takes threats against government officials seriously, especially threats to kill or injure others," U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy said. "Whether the reason for the threat is personal or political, threats are not protected by the First Amendment and are crimes."
In the past, juries have been reluctant to convict those who made their threats online. But First Amendment experts on Monday said Leboon's case appears to be different from others that have tested the limits of political speech.