A Fort Lauderdale man is facing charges of threatening to kill President Trump, after he texted that he wanted to open the president’s skull “like the cantaloupe that it is,” according to authorities.
They say that 57-year old Cesar Saiz could get up to five years in federal prison for making the threats.
Court records state that Saiz sent the messages on July 18, telling an acquaintance that the only way to fix the country was to assassinate Trump. “Take the demon down,” Saiz reportedly texted. “I am ready for civil war.”
The other person reported the texts to local law enforcement the same evening, and officers were dispatched to Saiz’s home.
He yelled “freedom of speech!” upon seeing the officers, according to court records. He also told the officers that he been drinking for four days, and had been unemployed for over four months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In his conversation with officers, Saiz “repeatedly expressed his disdain over President Trump, more specifically, the president’s response to COVID-19.”
He then gave officers his cellphone. Authorities discovered that he had at least two other conversations on the same day in which he discussed the desire to kill Trump.
Investigators also found that Saiz had conducted research into the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and had searched for places to “volunteer” to assassinate Trump.
In addition, he had looked for a “union” to assassinate Trump, and offered his services as a marksman if anyone were to need to attack the president.
On July 19, one day after his encounter with authorities, Saiz apologized in a Facebook post. “Out of shear exasperation and stress brought on by over 4 months of quarantine and care taking for my parents I made an out of character mean spirited statement via text to an acquaintance,” the post read.
Prosecutors have argued that they want to keep Saiz in jail while he awaits trial, due to his history of mental illness and alcohol abuse, as well as previous legal issues, including a 1991 felony conviction for aggravated battery of a police officer and at least two domestic violence incidents.
They also allege that he engaged in witness tampering by contacting the acquaintance who reported his texts to authorities.
Saiz made his initial appearance in front of federal Magistrate Judge Patrick Hunt on July 22. He had a video hearing last Wednesday in order to determine if he would be held until the trial.
The outcome of that hearing is unclear, and Saiz remains at the Broward County Jail.
“This is not just saying, ‘God, I wish something bad would happen to Donald trump,’” says Gerald Greenberg, a former federal prosecutor. “This to me is bad stuff and he’s putting it out there on the internet.”
He adds that Department of Justice guidelines instruct prosecutors to consider more than just a defendant’s words when charging them with a speech-related crime.
“It has to be that they [prosecutors] see this particular guy’s words or this particular guy as something different than the venting that hundreds of millions of Americans are doing every single day,” he says.