Stephen Espalin.(Photo of Florida Department of Law Enforcement)
A Florida man has been sentenced to prison — again — for threatening to kill the president of the United States — again. Stephen Espalin says he only made the threat to get free medical care, though, and it wasn’t the first time he tried it either.
Espalin, 57, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after he threatened the life of then-President George W. Bush back in 2001. He apparently didn’t learn his lesson, however, and told investigators just a few years later that he would kill Pres. Barack Obama with a homemade bomb.
While being treated for heart attack-like symptoms at a Boca Raton, FL hospital in December 2010, Espalin, according to the Sun Sentinel, told Secret Service agents that he had shipped a bomb to the White House only hours earlier.
“Espalin stated that he hoped the explosive device would kill the President of the United States because he did not approve of his political leadership,” reads Espalin’s plea agreement.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Robin Rosen-Evans told Senior US District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp last week that he found it abundantly clear that Espalin “had personally no intent and clearly had no ability to carry out a threat against the president.” Even if he wasn’t serious the second time, Judge Ryskamp sentenced Espalin nonetheless to four years in prison.
Fortunately for Espalin, that’s exactly what he had hoped for.
When he entered a Boca Raton hospital for chest pains in late 2010, Espalin apparently used fake names and lied about having health insurance, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Staffers were just about to eject him, in fact, when he made the comment about an apparently unreal bomb.
“I would have no intent to hurt the president,” the paper quotes Espalin. “I realize it wasn’t the right thing to do. I uttered those words knowing the [federal agents] would come and take care of me.”
In the two years since he made his most recent threat, Espalin has indeed received assistance from behind bars. His attorney says he will soon undergo heart surgery from prison, and he has already been given a wheelchair and chemotherapy behind bars — costly treatment that would have been near impossible without proper health insurance.
Investigators believe the “bomb”— described by Espalin as being the size of a shoe box and containing “explosive materials and visible external wiring”— was never sent to Washington. Regardless, he’s been reaping the benefits of free healthcare all for what authorities view as a serious crime nonetheless. And, according to CBS News, he made his threat against Pres. Bush in order to obtain the same services.
Espalin, who was homeless before his latest incarceration, has also been asked to pay a quarter-of-a-million dollar fee. First, however, he is expected to undergo heart surgery from behind bars.
And while Espalin has used an extended prison stay to have his medical bills comped before, he isn’t the only one who has done as much. In 2011, a North Carolina man entered a bank and demanded a single dollar bill so he could be incarcerated and receive treatment for back and foot problems.