An Ohio man was sentenced to three years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to a political stunt that involved an attempt to spray-paint a "don't tread on me" logo on the White House.
Joseph Clifford Reel, 33, of Kettering, Ohio, admitted in federal court in October that he rigged his Jeep to crash near the White House in order to distract Secret Service agents and allow him to approach the presidential mansion. Prosecutors said Reel believed that the action would lead others to "stand up against government."
The incident, which occurred in June, began with Reel calling 911 to report that something was about to be staged at the White House. Prosecutors said he jammed a wooden block on the accelerator of his Jeep and reached into the vehicle to shift it into gear. The unmanned Jeep barreled toward the White House complex and struck a light pole near a Secret Service guard post.
Reel had planned to sneak onto the White House grounds and to spray paint the logo from the Gadsden flag — a rallying symbol for the Tea Party movement — on the executive mansion. But authorities arrested him minutes after the Jeep crashed. A can of spray paint was located nearby.
Inside the Jeep, authorities found hundreds of rounds of ammunition, eight knives, two machetes and a hand-held spotting scope.
Reel was also ordered to pay $5,345 to cover damages.
U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said Reel was "lucky to be alive" and said he hoped the incident would discourage "individuals considering political stunts that risk the safety of public servants seeking to protect our national treasures."
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