A Connecticut man who jumped the White House fence draped in an American flag last Thanksgiving Day pleaded guilty Monday to a federal misdemeanor violation of illegal entry of restricted grounds in a deal with prosecutors, who agreed to seek a sentence of three years’ probation.
Joseph Anthony Caputo, 23, will continue to live with his mother in Stamford, Conn., under electronic monitoring and a curfew before his sentencing set for Dec. 6 before U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper of the District.
Caputo “is a conscientious young man . . . and for what he believes in he engaged in conduct that exposes him to liability,” his lawyer, Stephen E. Seeger, said after the hearing.
Caputo, who spoke only briefly in answer to questions by the judge and whose parents were in court, “accepts full responsibility,” and wants to move on with his life since graduating from college, Seeger said.
The plea came after Cooper denied a defense motion to dismiss the case last month. Cooper rejected as near-frivolous its argument that Caputo’s “escapade” was free speech meant to draw attention to domestic issues and to highlight flaws in national security, such as the government’s inability to solve the problem of White House fence-jumpers.
“There is, after all, no First Amendment right to express one’s self in a nonpublic area like the White House,” Cooper wrote.
The U.S. Secret Service said Caputo wore weightlifting gloves and Stars-and Stripes-decorated sneakers to scale the White House fence’s new “pencil-point” spikes on Nov. 26, and was found carrying a pocket guide to the U.S. Constitution after his immediate arrest.
Authorities are reviewing plans to begin construction in 2018 of a nearly 12-foot-tall fence around the White House, compared with the existing 7-foot-tall barrier.