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Presidential 'hopeful' gets probation

| Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003

A Fayette County man who believes he will be the next president of the United States faced a judge Monday -- but not for the oath of office.

Instead, Ronald Paul West, of Perryopolis, was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation as a condition of one year of probation for writing harassing letters to the county's Children and Youth Services staff.

According to the letters, the staffers were members of the KGB, the defunct Soviet Union's spy agency, while West was a secret agent for the CIA, code-named Casper.

In reality, West's parenting ability was under investigation because he was involuntarily committed to a treatment center for the mentally ill in March 2002 after not taking his medication for schizophrenia.

Fayette County Judge Steve Leskinen yesterday asked West for an assurance that he would refrain from sending harassing letters during the term of his probation.

His answer echoed the phrase George Washington appended to the oath of office and added by almost every president since: "So help me God."

In addition to his secret post with the CIA, West has said he is chief of the nonexistent federal police and in charge of an outfit he calls underground Pentagon security, which he contended was the real name of United Parcel Service.

Authorities contend West has been "campaigning" for president for more than a decade. He has said he believes President Bush will win re-election before his own nomination and victory in 2008.

He has promised some Cabinet posts to Fayette County officeholders. For example, Prothonotary Lance Winterhalter is the putative secretary of state under a future West administration.

Public Defender Jeff Whiteko said he has been offered a post as well but refuses to say what it is.

"If I told you, I'd have to kill you," he said.

West, an Army veteran, also is charged with terroristic threats for mail he sent to a state trooper. West said the trooper confessed to him that he was the son of Satan.

In the letter, West wrote that the trooper should die by electrocution.

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