Fence jumper pleads guilty

A 23-year-old Connecticut man with Naugatuck ties who jumped over the White House fence while draped in a U.S. flag last Thanksgiving pleaded guilty to a federal charge Monday.

Hometown friends in Naugatuck expressed bewilderment last year following the arrest Joseph Caputo for scaling the fence while President Barack Obama was celebrating Thanksgiving with his family.

His leap prompted a White House lockdown. He was arrested almost immediately after he landed on the North Lawn of the White House.

The government alleges Caputo first ran toward the White House, but he contended that he surrendered immediately upon landing.

While in custody, Caputo made spontaneous statements to law enforcement, including, “I love my country” and “I knew I would be locked up.”

He left behind several letters that were intended to exonerate his acquaintances for his actions and suggested he knew he might die after scaling the fence.

Caputo was unarmed, but he was found carrying a pocket-sized copy of the U.S. Constitution on him when he was apprehended.

Caputo pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of illegal entry onto restricted grounds in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The charge carries a maximum one-year prison sentence, but federal prosecutors agreed to recommend Caputo be sentenced to a period of probation subject to various condition.

The plea agreement bars Caputo from the nation’s capital and other sites under the protection of the U.S. Secret Service. It also applies to any people under Secret Service projection.

In addition, the plea agreement requires Caputo to submit to Secret Service interviews and undergo psychiatric evaluation by a Secret Service psychologist if requested.

Caputo grew up in Naugatuck, and he graduated from Naugatuck High School in 2011. His last reported address was Stamford.

He pleaded guilty three weeks after a federal judge denied a defense motion to dismiss the single charge lodged against him.

Caputo had claimed that his escapade constituted symbolic speech because he scaled the White House fence to highlight flaws in national security.

He argued the government’s inability to solve such a simple problem as the height of the White House fence demonstrated his claim. He characterized his purpose as noble.

Caputo also argued the federal statute was vague.

In upholding the government’s charge, Judge Christopher R. Cooper rejected Caputo’s arguments, calling them borderline frivolous.

Caputo is now scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 6.

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