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Illinois man pleads not guilty to threatening to assassinate Trump

By Julia Jacobs

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An Illinois man charged with threatening to assassinate U.S. President Donald Trump after his Facebook posts were reported to authorities pleaded not guilty on Wednesday, according to court documents.

Joseph Lynn Pickett, of Edwardsville, Illinois, pleaded not guilty to the federal charge of making a threat against the president at his appearance in the U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Illinois, according to court documents. The felony charge was filed on June 15.

If convicted, Pickett faces up to five years in prison.

Pickett's attorney, Thomas Gabel, could not immediately be reached for comment.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams ordered Pickett held in custody until his jury trial at the end of August. That location was not disclosed.

Pickett made the Facebook posts on June 14 and 15 and his former coworkers then alerted the U.S. Secret Service, according to court documents. He wrote that the Republican president deserved to be killed and goaded Secret Service officers to arrest him, according to court documents.

"The secret service (sic) now has a heads up as to my plan to assassinate Trump," Pickett wrote, according to court documents. "let’s see if they act!"

Pickett said Trump needed a "blade in his neck," according to court documents. He also wrote that he had multiple guns.

Pickett was fired from his job at a Lowe's home improvement store in Granite City, Illinois, between six and eight months ago for threatening a coworker, according to court documents.

On June 15, two Lowe's workers notified the Secret Service's St. Louis office of Pickett's online threats to the president, the documents said.

The court decided Pickett should be held in custody to assure others' safety and because of the defendant's "mental instability," according to court documents.

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)