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Context of 'May 23, 2012: Florida College Student Pleads Guilty to Threatening to Assassinate President'

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Jose Padilla (see May 14, 2007), convicted in August 2007 of conspiring to assist terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda, is sentenced for his crimes. Padilla was not charged with plotting to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb,” as Bush administration officials have long alleged (see June 10, 2002). He is sentenced to over 17 years in prison, but is not sentenced to life in prison, as Judge Marcia Cooke could have given him. Cooke gives Padilla some credit for his detention in a US naval brig, and agrees that he was subjected to what she calls “harsh conditions” and “extreme environmental stresses” while there. “I do find that the conditions were so harsh for Mr. Padilla… they warrant consideration in the sentencing in this case,” she rules. Padilla does not get credit for time served. Two co-defendants, Adham Amin Hassoun (see 1993) and Kifah Wael Jayyousi (see (October 1993-November 2001)), are also convicted; Hassoun receives over 15 years in prison and Jayyousi is sentenced to over 12 years. Cooke says that the prosecution failed to prove that either defendant was responsible for any specific acts of terrorism. “There is no evidence that these defendants personally maimed, kidnapped, or killed anyone in the United States or elsewhere,” she rules. The reactions from the defendants’ lawyers and family members are mixed. “I feel good about everything. This is amazing,” says Padilla’s mother, Estela Lebron. Hassoun’s lawyer, Jeanne Baker, calls the verdict “a defeat for the government.” And Jayyousi’s lawyer, William Swor, says: “The government has not made America any safer. It has just made America less free.” [Associated Press, 1/22/2008] Padilla will serve his prison sentence at a so-called “supermax” prison facility in Colorado. Domestic terrorists such as Terry Nichols, convicted of conspiring to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994), “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996), and al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui (see April 22, 2005) are also held at this facility. [Jurist, 4/19/2008]

Entity Tags: Marcia Cooke, William Swor, Kifah Wael Jayyousi, Jeanne Baker, Adham Amin Hassoun, Al-Qaeda, Jose Padilla, Estela Lebron, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

A chain email makes the rounds of the Internet containing a purported Associated Press (AP) article that claims to hold evidence that President Obama is not an American citizen (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, July 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, July 1, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, and July 29, 2009). The story claims that transcripts from Obama’s first university, Occidental College, show that Obama attended the school under the name “Barry Soetoro” and received financial aid as a native of Indonesia. The alleged AP story reads in part: “The group ‘Americans for Freedom of Information’ has released copies of President Obama’s college transcripts from Occidental College. Released today, the transcript school [sic] indicates that Obama, under the name Barry Soetoro, received financial aid as a foreign student from Indonesia as an undergraduate. The transcript was released by Occidental College in compliance with a court order in a suit brought by the group in the Superior Court of California. The transcript shows that Obama (Soetoro) applied for financial aid and was awarded a fellowship for foreign students from the Fulbright Foundation Scholarship program. To qualify, for the scholarship, a student must claim foreign citizenship.” PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, investigates the claim. AP spokesman Jack Stokes tells PolitiFact the story is not valid: “It is not an AP story,” he says. PolitiFact then performs Google and Lexis-Nexis searches, and finds no information on any such group named “Americans for Freedom of Information.” The story, PolitiFact notes, is dated April 1, 2009, April Fool’s Day. Occidental College official Jim Tranquada confirms that the school has not released Obama’s transcripts, because it has never received a request from Obama to do so, and unless it receives such a request, it cannot, under federal law, release the transcripts to anyone. Obama called himself “Barry” when he entered Occidental, but according to the recollections of friends and acquaintances, began calling himself “Barack” by the time he left. “Soetoro” is the name of Obama’s stepfather, with whom he lived in Indonesia while a small child. Tranquada confirms that Obama registered under the name “Obama” and not “Soetoro.” The email’s claim that Obama applied for a Fulbright scholarship cannot be verified by any records. [St. Petersburg Times, 6/28/2010]

Entity Tags: Jim Tranquada, Occidental College, Americans for Freedom of Information, Associated Press, PolitiFact (.org ), Barack Obama, Jack Stokes

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Joaquin Serrapio posing with one of his pellet guns. Joaquin Serrapio posing with one of his pellet guns. [Source: NBCMiami (.com)]College student Joaquin Amador Serrapio pleads guilty to threatening to assassinate President Obama. Serrapio, a student at Miami-Dade College in Miami, Florida, was arrested by Secret Service agents in February after posting two threats on Facebook. On February 21, he posted in reference to an Obama appearance at the University of Miami, “Who wants to help me assassinate Obummer while hes at UM this week?” Two days later, the same day Obama was scheduled to appear at the school, Serrapio posted: “If anyones going to UM to see Obama today, get ur phones out and record. Cause at any moment im gonna put a bullet through his head and u don’t wanna miss that! Youtube!” He also characterized the Obama administration as “communist” on his Facebook account. Local police found evidence in his home that he posted the threats (under the pseudonym “Jay Valor”), but no weapons aside from two pellet guns. Police found an iPad with one of the Facebook postings on it and a cell phone with a text message from a friend warning Serrapio, “LOL you can get in trouble for sayin’ that.” Serrapio texted back that he intended to “challeng[e]” the Secret Service, and said that if any Secret Service agents came to arrest him, “I wanna kill at least two of them when they get here.” Prosecutors dropped a charge of threatening Secret Service agents, and have said that Obama was never in any real danger. Serrapio has claimed that he never intended to follow up on his assassination threats, and his intention was merely “to rile up Obama supporters.” Defense lawyer Alan Ross says that Serrapio accepted a plea agreement from prosecutors that required his guilty plea. “He was really stupid, really stupid,” Ross says. Serrapio faces up to 10 months in jail, though Ross notes that US District Judge Marcia Cooke could sentence him to probation. [Associated Press, 2/28/2012; Associated Press, 5/23/2012; Reuters, 5/23/2012; Global Post, 5/23/2012]

Entity Tags: Joaquin Amador Serrapio, Alan Ross, Barack Obama, Marcia Cooke, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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