A federal judge handed down a 17-month prison sentence Tuesday to a disturbed Iraq war veteran who scaled the White House fence last September and helped trigger a shake-up of the Secret Service after he was able to enter the executive mansion.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ordered Omar J. Gonzalez, 43, to stay out of the District, give up his guns and knives, and allow the Secret Service access to his medical records.
“We often think of the White House as the most secure place in the world, but it was proven that day that it was not,” Collyer said before addressing Gonzalez directly. “No more guns, no more machetes, no more knives, no more tomahawks. Got it?”
His attorney said Gonzalez will live with his father in Southern California after he completes his prison term. He will remain on probation for three years, and his attorney said Gonzalez is expected to receive mental health treatment for the rest of his life.
“I would like to apologize. I am sorry for my actions,” said Gonzalez, who appeared with a full beard and wearing an orange jumpsuit. “I never meant to harm anyone. I want to commit to maintain my treatment that started at the prison.”
Gonzalez pleaded guilty in March to entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly weapon and to assaulting a federal officer, both felonies.
On Sept. 19, Gonzalez ignored orders to stop, barreled through the White House’s North Portico doors, knocked down one officer and was finally tackled in the East Room, after which he told the Secret Service that he wanted to tell the president the “atmosphere was collapsing.”
Gonzalez apparently became the first fence-scaler to cross the 70-yard North Lawn and make it into the White House without being stopped, a failure traced to a string of Secret Service blunders that included a distracted guard-dog officer, an unlocked front mansion door and silenced alarms.
Security weaknesses exposed by Gonzalez’s actions prompted searing criticism of the Secret Service, and the scrutiny added to a string of embarrassments that led to the departure of more than half of the agency’s senior leadership.
Under pressure from lawmakers and new director Joseph P. Clancy, the Secret Service has begun changes including hiring new officers and making the White House fence harder to climb.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu