US

Man Who Threatened to Kill Obama Sentenced to Prison

By Zachary Stieber

A New York man who was convicted of threatening to kill former President Barack Obama and current Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) was sentenced to serve 46 months in prison.

Stephen Taubert, 61, of Syracuse, will also serve a three-year term of supervised release and pay a fine of $1,000, the Department of Justice said.

“The jury unanimously found that Taubert targeted former President Obama and Representative Waters because of their race. Racist threats to kill present and former public officials are not protected free speech, but serious crimes against both the victims and the rule of law that is the cornerstone of our republic. As the trial verdict and sentence in this case illustrate, those who spew such vile, violent hatred will be held accountable.” U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith said in a statement.

“In addition to returning guilty verdicts on all three counts charged in the indictment, the trial jury made specific findings that Taubert selected his victims because of their actual or perceived race, color, or ethnicity, which provided for an enhancement under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines based upon hate-crime motivation,” the department said.

Taubert was convicted by a jury in March. He was convicted of threatening to kill a former President of the United States, transmitting a threat via interstate commerce, and threatening to murder a member of Congress with intent to impede, interfere with, or retaliate against a member of Congress during and because of her performance of official duties. He faced up to 20 years in prison.

Al Franken
Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, on July 12, 2017. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)
Former President Barack Obama, standing with Former Vice President Joe Biden, talks about the Iran Nuclear Deal on July 14, 2015. (Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)

Taubert called the Washington office of then-Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on June 2, 2017, and said that he was planning to travel to the nation’s capital to kill Obama at his house.

Taubert also unleashed a slew of “vile racial slurs” against Obama.

On July 20, 2018, Taubert called the Los Angeles district office of Waters and said that he would be at every event the Congresswoman attended.

He said he planned to kill Waters and every member of her staff and again used a number of racial slurs.

The evidence presented at the trial included a recorded interview in which Taubert admitted calling Waters’ office to “terrorize” her in retaliation for some of the public statements she made. He also used racist statements in the interview.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) speaks at a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 31, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Host Kathy Griffin speaks onstage during The 41st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on June 22, 2014. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for NATAS)

Taubert also said he was motivated to make the calls to Franken’s office because he was upset about a video that former comedian Kathy Griffin made in which she pretended to sever the head of President Donald Trump.

Taubert apologized, saying he was just “a cranky old man with a lot of time on his hands and too much television,” reported Syracuse.com. Officers said he ultimately confessed to making the calls to Waters.

He said the purpose of the phone call to Waters was to tell her that she was a “low IQ [expletive].”

While he admitted to using racial slurs and strong language, Taubert denied the charges, saying his words never amounted to a threat.