While crowds cheered for President Barack Obama as he raced to a Democratic fundraiser at the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco on Thursday evening, a Crescent City man sat behind bars for e-mailing threats to kill the president and his family.
John Gimbel, 59, was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury in The City after making dozens of threats against Obama and other public officials in e-mails that spanned more than two years, according to court papers.
Gimbel sent his latest e-mail on Sept. 28 to Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, a newspaper and about 70 other individuals. The threats are littered with racial epithets and claims to kill not only Obama, but his wife and children in front of him.
In an affidavit for a warrant to search Gimbel’s home, U.S. Secret Service Agent Russell Miller chronicles about 30 threatening e-mails sent to journalists and congressmen targeting Obama, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
The Secret Service visited Gimbel’s home on Sept. 7 and told him that he could be arrested for threatening the president’s life. Gimbel responded by saying the Constitution guaranteed him the right of free speech, according to the affidavit.
“He said he didn’t intend to harm the president, but only wanted to draw attention,” Miller wrote. “When advised that his language was threatening and that his communications were causing fear in the recipients, Gimbel said, ‘Sticks and stones.’”
Federal authorities visited Gimbel in 2007 as well, after he threatened to “kill Bush and his family. Decapitate them with axes.” During the visit, Secret Service agents interviewed one of his sisters, who said Gimbel was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was troubled after being discharged from the military. Documents also note that Gimbel owns several guns.
Gimbel is accused of three counts: threatening the president; threatening the president’s immediate family; and transmitting the threats through a medium of interstate communication. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Jack Gillund said he could not give any details about the case.
Obama’s visit was brief, allotting for only enough time for a dinner and reception to raise money for Organizing for America, the president’s political arm of the Democratic National Committee.
Air Force One touched down at San Francisco International Airport at 4:53 p.m. Thursday. The president did not make any public appearances during his stay, and was scheduled to leave The City this morning.
John Gimbel has a record of threatening to kill government officials:
April 2004: Gimbel is accused of making threats in an e-mail complaining about a $5 parking ticket, saying he would deputize “all of the citizens of Crescent City. … Grab those high-powered deer rifles, each and every, and get in groups of 50 and more and go breeze away to dust the skull of the police chief.”
May 1, 2007: Gimbel sends an e-mail to NBC Universal to “kill Bush and his family.”
May 7 and 13, 2007: Gimbel sends e-mails to 80 U.S. representatives and senators asking them to kill President George W. Bush.
May 14, 2007: The Secret Service visits Gimbel at his Crescent City home. He tells them he is “harmless.” He said, “I just make ugly comments.”
June 2007-June 2009: Gimbel sends more than 20 threatening e-mails.
Sept. 7: Secret Service once again visits Gimbel.
Oct. 13: Gimbel is indicted for threatening President Barack Obama.
Source: U.S. Secret Service search warrant affidavit