La Mesa man guilty of threats against Obama

La Mesa man guilty of threats against Obama

A La Mesa man finds out when free speech is no longer protected, after
he is convicted of making threats against a candidate for president.

FOX 5 News (San Diego, CA)
July 28, 2009

By Perette Godwin, FOX 5 San Diego Reporter

SAN DIEGO, California – Walter Edward Bagdasarian walked out of
federal court Tuesday morning the same way he walked in, wearing a
stoic expression on his face and clutching the hand of his wife. But,
when Bagdasarian came out of the Edward J. Schwartz Federal Building
he was a man guilty of threatening the man running for the country’s
top spot, now President Barack Obama.

"The government’s position essentially was that the defendent intended
to make a threat," said Assistant United States Attorney William
Cole. "Again, the law does not turn on whether he intends to carry it
out but whether he intends to make a threat."

Bagdasarian requested and was granted a bench trial, meaning no jury
decided his fate. In finding him guilty U. S. District Judge Marilyn
Huff found the two messages Bagdasarian posted on the internet October
22, 2008, were intended as a threat. The messages, one which read, "He
will have a 50 cal in the head soon," were discovered after a retired
air force officer saw them on a Yahoo finance website and called the
secret service.

Another email included racial slurs and read, "Shoot the n–. Country
f—– for another 4+ years, what n– has done ANYTHING right???? Long
Term???? Never in history, except s-mbos."

In defending his client, Defense Attorney Ezekial Cortez argued the
postings were political speech and protected by the first
amendment. He also told the judge his client was drunk when he went on
the website.

"Defense counsel proffered the idea that he was drunk at the time but
as we indicated in court there was very limited evidence to
intoxication," said Cole.

Cortez objected to the introducction of other emails Bagdasarian sent
to someone on November 4th, election day. One email included a YouTube
video link showing a car being blown up after it was hit by a round
from a weapon. Cole said the second emails were important because they
also showed intent.

"All these days later he is still talking about the same subject
matter," he said. Which in the government’s mind undercuts the notion
these statements were solely the result of drunkeness."

Phone calls to Bagdasarian’s business and to the office of his
attorney went unreturned.

Out on $100,000 bail, the 47-year-old will be sentenced in
October. Each count he is convicted of carries a maximum of five years
in prison. So what will he be sentenced to, if he spends any time in

"Theoretical maximum is 10 years in prison," said Cole. "But again the
government has not made a recommendation at this time and has no
prediction at all as to what the sentence will be."