Jury Convicts Man In Presidential Threat Case

Jury Convicts Man In Presidential Threat Case By WAYNE ORTMAN SIOUX FALLS — A federal jury took just over an hour to return a guilty verdict Thursday in the case of an Oregon man accused of making threats against President Bush.

Richard Humphreys, of Portland, Ore., was arrested in Sioux Falls last March and indicted on a federal charge of threatening to kill or harm the president. It carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A jury of seven men and five women received the case at mid-afternoon Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Humphreys told the jury that a comment about a ??burning Bush'' before President Bush's visit to Sioux Falls last year was a prophecy that offers First Amendment protection.

Humphreys, who calls himself prophet Israel Humphreys, said a similar reference he made in an Internet Christian chatroom was a joke and that neither can be viewed as a threat on the president.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ridgeway said the Secret Service and people who heard the remark thought otherwise.

??It wasn't a joke. It wasn't funny. Simply put, it was a threat,'' Ridgeway told the jury Thursday in Humphreys' trial.

??The documents, his actions, his words all speak to one thing,'' Ridgeway said in closing arguments.

Humphreys said his trip to South Dakota was the fourth of his ??discipleship journeys'' that began in 1993 and are meant to promote Christianity through controversial acts or unusual public statements.

He said he has been arrested 25 times — with all but three cases dismissed — and that his indictment on the threat charge was the result of government profiling.

Humphreys said he left Portland on March 1, 2001 in a 1995 yellow Chevrolet Caprice taxicab powered by a Corvette engine. He arrived in Watertown on March 8 where he got into a 1:20 a.m. barroom discussion with a truck driver about Christians who drink too much alcohol.

Realizing that President Bush was to visit Sioux Falls the next day, a bartender told police that Humphreys talked about a ??burning Bush'' and the possibility of someone pouring a flammable liquid on Bush and lighting it.

??I said God might speak to the world through a burning Bush … I had said that before and I thought it was funny. It was prophetizing,'' Humphreys testified.

He was taken into custody the next day at a Sioux Falls motel just hours before the president arrived. Humphreys said he didn't threaten the president and didn't know he was visiting Sioux Falls.

He acted as his own attorney in the case, with occasional help from public defender William Delaney, who sat behind him in the spectator section of the courtroom.

When it was time for Humphreys to present his case, he questioned two witnesses and then took the stand to answer questions from Delaney and read a lengthy portion from the Bible.

With Delaney's questioning completed, Humphreys began recounting his version of the events and his activities of the past nine years. As his narrative approached 45 minutes, Ridgeway more frequently challenged the relevance of it and Humphreys then rested his case.

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