A plea agreement entered Wednesday by a Las Vegas man who threatened the lives of President Obama and other government officials may provide federal authorities with new ammunition in its legal battle against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.
Tyrone Paul Ponthieux, 55, pleaded guilty this week to one felony count of making threats against the president and one count of threats against federal officials, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
In charging documents, prosecutors said they were conducting open-source Internet searches related to a separate investigation when they came across Mr. Ponthieux’s personal Facebook page and saw what they considered to be threats directed at the president.
“I think we all need to get our guns and shoot all these out of control congressmen and senators and Obama!” the November 2014 post read in part. “Any survivors, hang them, then try their dead bodies for high treason!”
Authorities arrested Mr. Ponthieux last June after being told by tipsters that he expressed an interest in acquiring the type of fertilizer used to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. No explosive ingredients were recovered during a subsequent search of his home, but police did seize seven registered guns.
While a defense attorney later told The Associated Press that his client’s remarks “very likely will be deemed protected First Amendment speech,” the plea agreement reveals that Mr. Ponthieux later threatened other government officials, including an FBI agent involved in his investigation, while still in federal custody.
Mr. Ponthieux is not scheduled to be sentenced until July 20, but in the meantime he may prove invaluable to investigators working a separate case.
The Review-Journal noted that Wednesday’s plea deal states that Mr. Ponthieux, in hopes of receiving a light sentence, has agreed to cooperate with authorities and provide testimony regarding “other persons who are committing or have committed offenses against the United States.”
The presence of certain individuals at Wednesday’s hearing suggests Mr. Ponthieux may provide assistance in the probe concerning Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher whose property became the epicenter of a land rights standoff in 2014, the newspaper reported.
Although the Bundy name appears nowhere in the plea deal entered this week, the Review-Journal noted that the prosecutors involved in that case appeared at Wednesday’s hearing, as did agents from the the Las Vegas FBI’s domestic terrorism squad, who are linked to both cases.
Nineteen defendants are currently facing criminal charges stemming from the 2014 Bundy Ranch stand-off, the Review-Journal said.
William Gamage, an attorney for Mr. Ponthieux, declined to comment when reached by the paper this week.