White House Fence Jumper Released From Custody

Joseph Caputo pleads not guilty

A college student who jumped over the White House fence while draped in an American flag was released from custody and ordered to live with his mother in Connecticut until his case is resolved.

Joseph Caputo, 22, pleaded not guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful entry onto restricted grounds, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison. Federal prosecutors agreed to his release from custody.

A judge ordered him to submit to electronic monitoring, observe an 8 p.m. curfew, and stay away from D.C. except for court appearances and meetings with lawyers. Caputo, a student at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut who has no criminal history, will also undergo a mental health evaluation.

Caputo's actions Thursday prompted a lockdown of the White House grounds while President Barack Obama was celebrating Thanksgiving with his family. He was the first person to scale the White House fence since the Secret Service installed metal spikes atop the structure in response to a series of security breaches, including a man armed with a knife who got deep inside the executive mansion before he was arrested.

Caputo and his mother declined to comment as they left court. His attorney, Stephan Seeger, said Caputo's actions were a form of protest and that he had no plans to harm himself or anyone else. He went over the fence with a binder in his teeth containing a revised version of the Constitution, Seeger said.

"He's a politically conscious young man," Seeger said. "Some of the things that he wrote in his rewritten Constitution of sorts included the need for change in education, separation of power, voting and type of thing."

How Caputo chose to deliver his message is the issue, Seeger said.

"I just don't think that Joe Caputo is the poster child for enhanced security at the White House or anywhere else in the country for that matter," he said.

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According to court documents, investigators found a suicide note from a home he was staying at in Virginia. They also found a will, suggesting Caputo intended to die.

"The whole suicide notion couldn't be further from the truth," Seeger said. "I think what my client did was leave some instruction in contemplation of what might happen after he jumped the White House fence."

The judge suspended speedy-trial rules to give attorneys time to negotiate a plea deal.

"We're hoping to work toward a resolution as quickly as possible," Seeger said. "We do hope to avoid going to trial. There are some aspects of this case that don't warrant a trial."

A status hearing was set for Jan. 12.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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