United States

Man Who Threatened to Assassinate President Obama Violated Probation, Disappeared From Authorities

Jonathan Smead left Ohio, went to Washington state and Las Vegas without court permission

An Ohio man who pleaded guilty to threatening to assassinate President Barack Obama in 2016 violated his probation and went missing from authorities for days earlier this month, according to an arrest warrant reviewed by the News4 I-Team.

According to court filings from federal agents, police encountered Jonathan Smead “highly intoxicated” near Seattle on Oct. 3, thousands of miles away from his home in Ohio, where a court order requires him to remain during his probation. A woman called the police to report Smead refused to leave her home in Cle Elum, Washington. The woman said she’d met Smead online a month earlier and he traveled by bus to visit and stay with her, according to the arrest warrant.

According to the warrant, the Kittitas County Sheriff's Department did not arrest Smead and instead escorted him to a hotel. The warrant said Smead soon thereafter traveled to Las Vegas, where he evaded detection from authorities for nearly a month, until his arrest earlier this week.

In 2016, the U.S. Secret Service accused Smead of phoning a death threat to the president and referencing past assassins, including Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth. Smead, 36, also threatened to kill Hillary Clinton, according to court filings.

A judge sentenced Smead to five years of probation for this crime, requiring no federal prison sentence.

The probation sentence required Smead to remain in northern Ohio unless he received court permission. The warrant said Smead did not receive permission to travel. The warrant also said Smead failed to attend court-ordered drug treatments and a meeting with his probation officer.

The U.S. Marshals Service arrested Smead Monday and returned him to Ohio, according to a Justice Department official. Where marshals found him has not been revealed.


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The I-Team is awaiting information from the Kittitas County Sheriff's Department about why it released Smead without arrest or if deputies ran a background check before setting Smead free.

A News4 I-Team investigation in July revealed challenges faced by federal authorities in securing prison sentences for people who admit breaching security or threatening government officials. At least 25 people have been prosecuted for trespassing or unlawful entry at the White House or U.S. Capitol since 2014. Nearly all were never sentenced to prison or have since been released from prison.

In several cases reviewed by the I-Team, men and women returned to breach security again after their initial arrests.

Smead’s case, in which he pleaded guilty to threatening the president, was prosecuted in federal court in Ohio. Sentencing memos in Smead’s case, which would indicate why Smead was able to avoid prison time, were sealed by the federal court in Cleveland.

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