A homeless man who had threatened to kill US President Barack Obama, his family and their dog Bo, has claimed he did so only because he needed medical treatment for chest pains and knew that federal agents would come and take care of him following the threat. Stephen Espalin, 57, told a federal judge he made the threat after he was kicked out of a Boca Raton hospital for giving a false name and lying about having health insurance, reports the Sun Sentinel.
It wasn't the first time Espalin used that extreme tactic to get medical attention. He previously served 18 months in federal prison for threatening to kill former President George W. Bush in 2001, according to court records. Espalin uses a wheelchair and received chemotherapy treatment in federal custody while awaiting sentencing. He is expected to undergo heart surgery while he is locked up, according to documents filed by his lawyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender Robin Rosen-Evans. Rosen-Evans said it is clearly apparent that he personally had no intent and no ability to carry out a threat against the president. Rosen-Evans said hospital officials had called police so Espalin reverted to what worked in the past and made a hollow threat so he would be taken into federal custody.
Espalin had told Boca Raton police and U.S. Secret Service agents he had sent a heat-activated bomb to the president at the White House, but there was no evidence any such explosive device was sent, authorities said. The judge sentenced Espalin to four years and three months in federal prison, the highest punishment suggested by sentencing guidelines. He also ordered him to undergo mental health treatment and recommended he be imprisoned at a prison with specialist medical care. Espalin apologized and expressed regret for costing the justice system time and money.