Norman Leboon charges: threats against Congress nothing new

A Philadelphia man, Norman Leboon, was charged Monday with threatening to kill Rep. Eric Cantor, a Jewish Republican. It follows a week when threats became a political issue.

House minority whip Eric Cantor of Virginia discussed threats against House members last Thursday after passage of the healthcare reform package. Monday, a Philadelphia man, Norman Leboon, was charged with threatening Congressman Cantor on a YouTube video.

The announcement Monday that Norman Leboon, a Philadelphia man, has been charged with threatening the life of Rep. Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia and his family caps a week of unusual public vetting of threats against members of Congress.

For many lawmakers, anonymous threats are seen as part of the job and typically shrugged off. The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn’t count them. The US Capitol Police rarely comments on them.

But when House Democrats went public last week with reports of threats against at least 10 of their members over healthcare votes, Republicans including Congressman Cantor, the Republican whip, urged Democrats and the news media to avoid politicizing the issue.

“I've received threats since I assumed elected office not only because of my position, but also because I'm Jewish. I've never blamed anyone in this body for that, period,” Cantor said at a press briefing on March 25.

“Just recently, I have been directly threatened. A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week. And I've received threatening e-mails. But I will not release them, because I believe such actions will only encourage more to be sent,” he added.

On March 26, Norman Leboon allegedly posted a YouTube video laced with death threats against Cantor and his family. The video does not cite healthcare reform, but includes a reference to Yom Kippur. Cantor is the only Jewish member of the House Republican caucus.

According to the FBI’s hate crime statistics for 2008, more than 65 percent of hate crimes motivated by religious bias are anti-Jewish.

In a statement, Mr. Leboon said that he had made over 2,000 videos in which he made threats. If convicted, he faces a maximum possible sentence of 15 years imprisonment, three years supervised release, and a fine up to $500,000.

The House increased security screenings for weapons following 1954 shootings in the House chamber. After a bomb 1971 bomb explosion outside the Senate chamber, metal detectors were installed at doorways in the Capitol. In 1983, after another bombing in the Capitol, metal detectors were extended to Senate and House office buildings. After the 9/11 attacks, Congress completed a Visitors Center and issued tamper-proof badges to staff.

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