An Idaho man who pleaded guilty to firing an assault rifle at the White House from his car in 2011 was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 23, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, shot at the White House in a “misguided effort to make the public aware of what he believed to be the coming Armageddon,” his lawyers wrote in memo to U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer seeking 10-year sentence. “It was emphatically not his intention to injure anyone, let alone President Obama.”
Ortega-Hernandez fired at least eight rounds at the building through the passenger window of his 1998 Honda Accord from Constitution Avenue, 800 yards from the residence, according to prosecutors. He originally faced 19 charges, including attempting to assassinate the president. On Sept. 18, he pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm during a crime and jeopardizing lives.
The Nov. 11, 2011, attack was at least the fifth on the White House in the past two decades, most of them perpetrated by people identified as mentally unstable.
Ortega-Hernandez had fallen under the influence of survivalists following a nomadic childhood in which his parents separated, according to his lawyers’ memo. He was raised for a time by his mother, then by his father, and then by relatives in Mexico, they said.
The attack, in which Ortega-Hernandez used an AK-47-style Romanian Cugir rifle, was the culmination of several months during which “the defendant fulminated against the president, whom he perceived to be the Antichrist,” federal prosecutors said in court papers filed before the guilty plea.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama weren’t in the White House at the time of the shooting, according to prosecutors.
President Bill Clinton and wife were also away in September 1994 when Frank Eugene Corder, an intoxicated Army veteran despondent over the breakup of his marriage, crashed a stolen Cessna into the south wall of the White House. Corder was killed and his family described him as suicidal.
Six weeks later, Francisco Martin Duran fired at least 29 shots through a fence on the north grounds of the White House, according to a Treasury Department report on White House security. Eleven rounds hit the White House facade and one bullet penetrated a window of the press briefing room. Clinton was in the residence watching television when the shooting took place, according to the report. Duran was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
In a third incident of the Clinton years, Leland William Modjeski jumped the White House fence and was shot and wounded by a Secret Service agent as he ran toward the building carrying a pistol that turned out to be unloaded. Modjeski was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
In February 2001, two weeks after President George W. Bush took office, Robert W. Pickett, a former Internal Revenue Service employee with a history of mental illness, drew a gun outside the White House and fired several shots before he was shot in the leg by security personnel. Pickett was sentenced to psychological treatment in a Bureau of Prisons facility.
As part of his sentence yesterday, Ortega-Hernandez was ordered to pay about $94,000 in restitution for damage he caused 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, according to a statement by Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
The case is U.S. v. Ortega-Hernandez, 12-cr-00014, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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