HAMMOND — A Hobart man pleaded guilty Tuesday to threatening to kill President Donald Trump.
Steffon Gonzalez, 20, of Hobart, admitted in U.S. District Court he posted threatening messages on Facebook against the president last spring on his home computer.
Had Gonzalez maintained his innocence and been convicted at trial, he could have faced a maximum penalty of five years in prison for his threats and an additional 20 years for obstruction of justice for telling his girlfriend to delete his Facebook account.
But Gonzalez signed a plea agreement last month in which U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II agreed to accept a more lenient sentence, which will be calculated later this year by the court’s probation office.
District Court Judge Philip Simon said he expects to sentence Gonzalez in late October.
Gonzalez wore an orange Porter County Jail jumpsuit Tuesday. He has been in federal custody since his arrest March 30.
He told the judge Tuesday he made his threats while watching a Trump political rally March 28 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, being live streamed by Fox 32 News in Chicago.
Gonzalez admits he publicly posted these comments on Facebook: “Standing outside with my .22 long rifle ready to kill trump I will be on the news” and “It's so crazy how I got a big 30x6 chambered to blow his head off wait till he starts walking I’m right outside….(where) he’s at.”
Gonzalez told the judge he was in fact sitting at home in Hobart where he was under house arrest over state court charges he had earlier threatened a friend of his family.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra McTague told the court a concerned citizen read Gonzalez’s posts and reported them to authorities.
Gonzalez said he falsely denied the comments two days later when Secret Service agents came to his home and questioned him, claiming his Facebook account had been hacked and someone else did it.
Secret Service agents and Hobart police found bullets and gunpowder, but no firearm at his Hobart residence.
Gonzalez also told the court Tuesday he tried to obstruct the investigation into his threats when he called his girlfriend from a recorded telephone line in the jail where he was being held and asked her to delete his Facebook page.
The judge said he will decide in October whether to accept the plea agreement, which stipulates Gonzalez should be sentenced to the least amount of prison time recommended by federal sentencing guidelines in return for his admission of guilt and avoiding the need for a jury trial.
The Lake County prosecutor’s office has dismissed a state charge over the same Facebook threat.