MIAMI — Trial was delayed Wednesday to allow time for a possible plea deal for a man arrested with a collection of weapons and military-style gear on charges of threatening to assassinate President-elect Barack Obama and President George W. Bush.
U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold agreed to delay trial until late January for Raymond Geisel, a 23-year-old native of Bangor, Maine, who faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted on all four counts against him. The trial had been set to begin next week.
Geisel, who has pleaded not guilty, was arrested in August at a Miami hotel and later indicted on charges of threatening to assassinate Obama and Bush while attending a training course to become a bail bondsman. He has been held without bail since his arrest in the most secure section of Miami’s downtown federal detention center.
According to a Secret Service affidavit, a fellow student overheard Geisel using a racist term to refer to Obama and adding, “If he gets elected, I’ll assassinate him myself.” Another person in the class quoted Geisel as saying he “hated George W. Bush and that he wanted to put a bullet in the president’s head.”
The plea negotiations focus on Geisel’s past mental problems in Maine, said his attorney, Fernando Hernandez. He would not go into details because of medical privacy laws but said he is seeking records from institutions that had contact with Geisel in 2003.
According to previous reports, Geisel grew up in Winterport, Maine, and attended high school at Hampden Academy. He has had charges against him in Maine, and in 2007 pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal threatening. As recently as November 2007 he listed his address as Hampden.
“I believe we’re working very diligently toward a resolution,” Hernandez said. “We’re right in the middle of it, but there are a lot of variables involved and it may still go to trial.”
Two of the charges against Geisel accuse him of illegally possessing ammunition and firearms because he had been committed to a mental institution. The other charges are making a threat against the president and threatening a major candidate for president. At the time of the arrest the Democratic Party had not yet formally nominated Obama.
Hernandez said the plea negotiations could turn on whether the 2003 mental incidents fit the legal definition of “committed.” If so, prosecutors would have a relatively easy time convicting Geisel of those charges because there is no dispute that he had numerous weapons and ammunition with him when he was arrested.
Geisel has denied in writing making any threats against Obama and Bush — making it his word against that of his accusers on the threat charges — and no evidence has surfaced indicating he took steps to carry out an assassination.
A search of Geisel’s hotel room and 1998 Ford Explorer — which was wired with flashing red and yellow emergency lights — uncovered a loaded 9 mm handgun, knives, a machete, dozens of rounds of ammunition, body armor and military-style fatigues. Geisel told the Secret Service all the items had a legitimate purpose, according to court documents.
Prosecutor Ben Greenberg agreed to the trial delay but declined further comment.