White House

Man Who Scaled White House Fence Avoids Prison, Gets 3 Years of Probation

A man who draped himself in the American flag and jumped over the White House fence on Thanksgiving Day in 2015 was sentenced Thursday to three years of probation.

Joseph Caputo of Stamford, Connecticut, pleaded guilty in September to entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds.

At his sentencing Thursday, prosecutors had planned to request three years probation and a ban from the District of Columbia.

While under probation, Caputo will have to stay away from D.C. and "any facilities, sites or people under Secret Service protection," said a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.

Caputo must also be interviewed by the Secret Service and, if ordered, undergo a psychiatric evaluation by a Secret Service psychologist, the spokesman said.

Caputo, now 24, scaled the fence Nov. 26, 2015 while carrying in his mouth a binder with a self-authored, "re-written" Constitution. Once over the fence he shouted "I love my country" and complied with Secret Service officers' demands to get on the ground.

“The main point was the binder,” Caputo said. “It seeks to restore the Constitution to its original intentions and enhance it based on the social parameters of our day.”

Caputo's lawyer argued Caputo's actions were intended to call attention to deficiencies in the Constitution and protected by the First Amendment, so the charge against him should be dismissed.

“He actually composed a rewritten Constitution that addressed changes to the existing Constitution which included some term limits for political office and included some changes for the educational system and just things that a conscientious young man might want to see change in the future,” attorney Stephen Seeger said.

A judge disagreed, saying Caputo's arguments "border on frivolous." There is "no First Amendment right to express one's self in a nonpublic area like the White House," U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper wrote.

Caputo isn't the only person to successfully scale the fence in recent years.

In September 2014, a Texas man managed to get over the fence, enter the executive mansion and run deep into the building. The man, Omar Gonzalez, was found to be carrying a folding knife and was ultimately sentenced to 17 months in prison. The security breach prompted officials to put up a second, shorter barrier several feet in front of the fence and to restrict people from entering the space in between the two barriers, but a month after Gonzalez was arrested, another man also got over the fence.

In 2015, a second layer of steel spikes was added to the fence, but Caputo still managed to get over it. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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