Thanksgiving White House fence jumper pleads not guilty

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 30, 2015 5:07 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Connecticut man charged with jumping a White House fence on Thanksgiving while wearing an American flag pleaded not guilty on Monday to a federal misdemeanor charge of illegally entering restricted grounds.

The man, 22-year-old Joseph Caputo, has been ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation after triggering a lockdown at the White House while President Barack Obama was present.

Magistrate Judge Alan Kay on Monday ordered Caputo to be released while awaiting trial but ordered him to stay away from Washington, except for meetings with his attorney and court appearances.

Caputo's attorney, Stephen Seeger, on Sunday told NBC News that his client had wanted to send a message about the U.S. educational and legal systems, and that he had realized he would be subject to arrest but that he had not intended to threaten anyone.

"If someone does something unorthodox, it's automatically a threat," he said.

Caputo, whom federal prosecutors earlier erroneously described as 23 years old, could face a year in prison if convicted.

The incident marked at least the third time someone has jumped the White House fence this year, and it followed recent steps by the Secret Service to improve security at the presidential mansion. Some measures included adding spikes to the top of the fence to make it harder for people to jump over.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Sandra Maler)