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Wisconsin man who threatened to kill Obama loses appeal

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A Wisconsin man who wrote on his Facebook page and told several others that he planned to kill then-U.S. President Barack Obama has lost his appeal of his conviction and three-year prison term for threatening the president.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Wednesday rejected Brian Dutcher's request that his January 2016 jury conviction be set aside because of a lack of evidence.

Dutcher, 56, of Tomah, said he had been unable to carry out his threat, having been armed only with a slingshot, and no one took him seriously. He also challenged the jury instructions.

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Stephen Meyer, a lawyer for Dutcher, said the decision "disappointed the defense by selectively reciting the facts of Mr. Dutcher's case and deflecting the issues presented on appeal."

Dutcher had written on Facebook that he planned to attend a July 2, 2015 event in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where Obama was giving a speech, and hoped to "get a clear shot at the pretend president. Killing him is our CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY!"

According to the decision, once in La Crosse, Dutcher repeated his plan to the Secret Service, police, a doctor and nurse, and a security guard he knew, telling him "I'm here to kill the President, the usurper, tomorrow at his speech."

Writing for the appeals court, Chief Judge Diane Wood said the federal law against threatening to harm the president required a reasonable belief that a listener would consider a threat serious, not that the speaker can carry it out.

"Dutcher told investigators that he used his slingshot to hunt small animals, and (actually comparing himself to David) that he could kill a man with it," Wood wrote. "The jury was entitled, based on this evidence, to find that Dutcher was capable of injuring the President with his slingshot."

The case is U.S. v. Dutcher, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 16-1767.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)

 
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