YouTube death threat against Rep. Eric Cantor nets two-year prison term

Norman LeBoon, the man who admitted to posting a death threat against Rep. Eric Cantor on YouTube, received a two-year prison sentence Thursday.

Carolyn Kaster/AP
House majority leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday. The Pennsylvania man who threatened Cantor over YouTube last year was sentenced Thursday.

A Philadelphia man was sentenced on Thursday to two years in prison for making threats on a YouTube video against Eric Cantor, a Jewish US congressman from Virginia, and members of his family.

Norman LeBoon pleaded guilty in November to making the threats. He admitted that he used his cell phone camera and computer to record the threats and then posted the resulting video on YouTube on March 26, 2010.

Federal prosecutors characterized Mr. LeBoon’s video statement as “extremely disturbing.”

Although the First Amendment protects free speech in general, it is a well established crime to make threats of violence against the president, members of Congress, or other government officials.

The issue has come into sharp focus with what some analysts say is an escalation of hostile political rhetoric among elected officials, party operatives, and television pundits. Those dangers were underscored with January’s mass shooting and attempted assassination of US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by a constituent whose mental state is in question.

LeBoon’s statement said in part: “My Congressman Eric Cantor, and you and your cupcake evil wife… Remember Eric… our judgment time, the final Yom Kippur has been given. You are a liar, you’re a Lucifer, you’re a pig, a greedy [deleted by The Monitor] 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 statement was posted on YouTube at a time when multiple threats were being made against members of Congress in early 2010 following the heated debate over the health care reform law. In addition, it was posted one day after news reports that a bullet was shot through the window of Cantor’s campaign office in Richmond.

No one was in the office at the time. Richmond police said it appeared the bullet was not aimed at Cantor or his office, rather it was the result of someone firing a gun into the air.

They said the bullet struck the window at a sharp angle and landed on the floor of the office one foot inside the broken window.

“The FBI has concluded that [LeBoon] had nothing to do with this shooting, which is believed to have been ‘random gunfire,’ ” court documents say.

“Threats against public officials at any time are extremely serious and have the potential to chill political discourse, in addition to seriously impacting the lives of the officials and their families,” wrote Assistant US Attorney Robert Reed in his sentencing memorandum. “Such threats are more serious than threats made to a small group and should be punished accordingly.”

In addition to the two-year prison sentence, US District Judge John Padova in Philadelphia ordered that LeBoon be subject to three years of supervised release during which he must continue to undergo mental-health treatment and be prohibited from accessing to the Internet.

The judge also required LeBoon to be subject to be subject to home detention and wear an electronic monitoring device for the first 60 days of his supervised release.

Judge Padova ordered LeBoon to avoid any contact with Congressman Cantor and members of his family.

The investigation of LeBoon began the same day his threatening video was posted on YouTube. In the days following, federal agents traced the IP address used to post the threatening video from Google to Verizon Internet Services.

They found LeBoon at the listed address. After receiving Miranda warnings, LeBoon admitted making the video. He also told the agents he was the “son of the god of Enoch,” and that god spoke through him. He informed the agents that Cantor was “pure evil,” that he “will be dead,” and that Cantor’s family was “suffering because of [god’s] wrath.”

“It is clear from the competency examination of the defendant in this case that the defendant has suffered from mental illness over many years,” Reed’s sentencing memorandum said. “It is equally clear that when he is not taking appropriate medication, he uses illegal substances and has, to say the least, a very inflated image of himself.”

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