Poem lands Louisville man behind bars, seen as threat to President Obama



Posted on February 19, 2010 at 7:12 PM

Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - A poem has landed a Louisville man behind bars.

It’s a poem Secret Service agents say was about assassinating President Barack Obama.

Federal authorities say Johnny Logan Spencer junior posted it on a white supremacy website.

The arrest came as a result of a complaint filed by a Secret Service agent this week.

The document says that Spencer knowingly made a threat against the president which he communicated to others in other states.

His attorney , Laura Wyrosdick, says that while what Spencer said in the poem in question was offensive, it's not illegal.

The original version of the poem called "The Sniper" debuted on a white supremacy site called newsaxon.org.

“That's not freedom of speech, that's threatening someone's life and it's sad that he feels that way,” says Spencer’s sometimes neighbor.

Spencer was arrested earlier this week on three felony charges.

Secret Service agents believe he tried to incite violence by distributing his poetry amongst members of the National Socialist Movement, who don't believe people of color should be allowed to be citizens or hold office.

Spencer's attorney says there was never any threat.

“It was in fact art, as offensive as some might find it. That's why it's protected under our first amendment,” says Wyrosdick.

So who is Spencer?

Online, he goes by the nickname Pain 1488.

According to websites, 14 stands for the 14 words of the white supremacist slogan and 88 refers to 88 words in a chapter of Adolph Hitler's ‘Mein Kampf’.

Spencer has a minor criminal history including convictions on drug charges and escaping home incarceration.

He doesn't have a job, has repeatedly violated parole and doesn't have a permanent home.

But those who know him don't believe he's dangerous, or even a racist.

“My sister, she has mixed children. His brother has mixed children and he wasn't raised that way you know? He was raised around blacks and whites all his life,” says Paul McGill, Spencer’s cousin.

His attorney points out that if he was going to act on a threat, he would have by now.

“I think that it's vague. I think that there's absolutely no immediate ability to incite violence. The fact that this poem was written in 2007, posted in 2007, I this think this is a misunderstanding,” says Wyrosdick.

The judge in the case will decide sometime next week if the U.S. attorney established probable cause in the case.

He ruled that Spencer could be released into electronic house arrest after meeting certain conditions.

He'll likely be released on Monday.