MIAMI (CBSMIAMI/AP) – A South Florida man who pleaded guilty last May to threatening President Barack Obama on Facebook has been sentenced to three years of probation.
“I did what I did. I take full responsibility,” said Joaquin Serrapio Jr. outside the federal courthouse in Miami. “I thought what she did was fair, what she did with sentence.”
After the sentence, Serrapio spoke on camera for the first time to CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, saying, “You just have to be careful what you put up on social media, wherever you put comments up, on Twitter or Facebook. Think of it as your resume for the rest of your life when it comes to getting jobs. A lot of people don’t realize that.”
Serrapio told D’Oench he never intended to harm President Obama.
“At the time it was just a sarcastic comment on Facebook,” he said. “I didn’t think anyone was going to take it seriously. I actually thought it was funny at the time. I didn’t realize it had consequences. Be careful not to make stupid decisions that could ruin your life. You just can’t post up anything. Now I want to be an example to other students in terms of what they can do in social media.”
Serrapio, 21, has admitted it was a stupid thing to do. In an apology letter to Mr. Obama, Serrapio said his actions were “childishly stupid” but he didn’t think anyone would take him seriously. “I also want to apologize to all supporters of President Obama,” he said.
There were some emotional moments inside a federal courtroom as Serrapio entered his plea.
His mother Zenaida Serrapio wiped away tears as she told Federal Judge Marcia Cooke that her son had been a joy to his family.
“He’s always listened. I do apologize,” Zenaida Serrapio said. “He has always been a good kid. Not the way he portrayed himself on Facebook.”
Moments after, Joaquin Serrapio Jr. addressed the court and said, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. It did not display my character. It was a sarcastic comment that did not translate well on the Internet.”
The judge agreed.
“You see the consequences,” Cooke said. “Do I think you actually intended to harm the President? I don’t think so. I want to make clear that people have the right to criticize our government, but the critique should not threaten peoples’ lives.”
In addition to the probation, the Judge ordered Serrapio to post a Facebook message explaining what happened. The Judge ordered that he be on house arrest for four months. He can only leave home to go to school, to go to work or see his attorney or to see a doctor or go to the hospital.
Serrapio was also sentenced to 250 hours of community service and the Judge encouraged him to speak to high school students.
Serrapio could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Outside the courthouse, Serrapio’s mother Zenaida said, “He’s very sorry. So are we. We apologized once and we will apologize as many times as we have to on his behalf and ours. He’s deeply sorry for what he did. He has expressed that many times. That was no my child there in that instance. He’s a good kid. He has always made us very proud of him and has always given us lots of joy.”
“We are relieved that this has come to end,” said Serrapio’s father Joaquin. “We are very happy. He’s a great kid and he made a mistake.”
After finishing a final semester as a second year music business major at Miami-Dade College in Kendall, Serrapio told D’Oench he plans to attend classes at Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
A second year music business major at Miami-Dade College, who also fronts for a rock band group called the J. Valor Band, Serrapio Jr. used the band’s Facebook page to post a pair of threats against the president.
The threatening comments were made around the time Obama visited South Florida in February to deliver a speech at the University of Miami and attend two fundraisers.
The first post was made on Feb. 21, it read: “Who wants to help me assassinate Obummer while hes at UM this week?”
A second post, on Feb. 23 read: “If anyones going to UM to see Obama today, get ur phones out and record. Cause at any moment im gonna put a bullet through his head and u don’t wanna miss that! Youtube!” the message said.
“He wanted to get a reaction from political supporters of President Obama,” said the family’s attorney Alan Ross. “He has learned a very important lesson.”
After the Facebook posts, an anonymous call was made to the Coral Gables Police Department and the Secret Service dispatched two agents to Serrapio’s home.
They found an iPad with one of the Facebook postings on it and a cell phone with a text message from one of Serrapio’s friends who was knew the trouble Serrapio could face.
“LOL you can get in trouble for sayin’ that”, the text message said.
Serrapio’s replied that he was simply “challenging” the Secret Services.
“I wanna kill at least two of them when they get here,” he said in that text.
During the search the only weapons that were found in Serrapio’s possession were two pellet guns.