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Bail denied for McKees Rocks man accused of threats against Obama, agents

| Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

A McKees Rocks man who repeatedly threatened President Obama and then threatened to kill the Secret Service agents investigating his threats will be held in jail until someone comes up with a better solution, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Jesse J. Almendarez, 34, has made at least five threats against Obama since 2011, posting some of them through the White House's website, FBI Special Agent Jeff Tisak said during Almendarez's detention hearing.

In December, Almendarez posted a message on a Veterans Affairs messaging system that said he wanted to kill special agents Christopher Watson and Bill Steen, he said.

In April, he called a Goodwill store seeking to buy a gun, Tisak said. Almendarez was arrested on Thursday.

U.S. Magistrate Lisa Pupo Lenihan said Almendarez's attempt to buy a gun was one of the reasons she could not allow him out on bail.

β€œI'm not a fan of incarcerating the mentally ill, but I don't have any alternative,” she said.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Marketa Sims said that Almendarez has been living in the community successfully since he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2002 and schizoaffective disorder in 2011.

He completed a program at Mercy Behavioral Health and is scheduled to see a psychiatrist June 4, so locking him up would do more harm than good, Sims said.

β€œHe's clearly suffering from psychiatric illness, but that solely is not a reason to detain him,” she said.

Lenihan said she would consider bail if Almendarez can be placed in an inpatient program where authorities would be alerted if he left the facility.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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