Alabama man pleads guilty to threatening Obama on Twitter

Twenty-five-year-old Jarvis Barton urged his followers to kill the president. Three months later, he was arrested

Topics: Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama, Twitter, F.E.A.R., Secret Service, Barack Obama,

Alabama man pleads guilty to threatening Obama on Twitter
This article was originally published by The Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Southern Poverty Law Center A black Birmingham, Ala., man pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to threatening the life of President Obama in a series of tweets, which were intermingled among hundreds of unrelated musings about women, weed and wanting to die.

Jarvis Britton, 25, wrote the Twitter threats last year and now faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on June 20.

“Free Speech? Let’s Test This! Let’s Go Kill The President!” Britton tweeted on June 29, 2012.

That was followed the next day with, “@BarackObama I wish you were dead.”

But it wasn’t until “an anonymous female caller” contacted the authorities and informed them about the tweets that Secret Service agents interviewed Britton in his Birmingham home last July. According to court papers, Britton admitted posting the threatening statements but said he didn’t intend to harm the president.

He told the agents that he had been drinking and was “just acting stupid.’’ He even apologized for wasting the agents’ time. Britton was not arrested until nearly three months later, when the Secret Service Internet Threat Desk notified the Birmingham office that he was at it again.

“Let’s kill the president. F.E.A.R.,” he tweeted on Sept. 14, 2012.

F.E.A.R. is an acronym for an anti-government militia, Forever Enduring Always Ready. The group, largely composed of active-duty soldiers based at Fort Stewart in Georgia, was in the news around the time of Britton’s September tweets. Several of its members had been charged with killing two teenagers in an effort to keep their plot to overthrow the government and assassinate the president secret.

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There is apparently no evidence that Britton had any connection to the militia.

On Sept. 19, Britton again hit the send button. “Serious question?” he tweeted. “If you knew about a terrorist group planning to kill the president, would you tell? I kinda wanna see if they can! F.E.A.R.”

About 48 hours later, agents were knocking on his door again. This time, he refused to talk to them. “I cooperated last time,’’ he said, according to court papers filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham. “This time I’m gonna test the system.”

The system arrested him that day.

“Any threat made on the life of the president of the United States is a serious matter that will be prosecuted,’’ acting U.S. Attorney John H. England said in a statement Monday following Britton’s guilty plea.

A month after his first visit from the Secret Service, on Aug. 24, Britton tweeted, “I sometimes wish I was dead. I think that would be so much easier. I took 10 pms last night and still woke up. Maybe I will need a whole bottle.”

Britton also tweeted about being on the government’s radar. On Aug. 28 he wrote, “If I disappear without a trace the secret service is holding me without a trial for talking about stuff I shouldn’t be talking about.”

While in custody, Britton underwent a court-ordered mental evaluation. A judge later ruled that he was competent to stand trial. The trial was scheduled for Monday, the day he pleaded guilty.

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