Family of man who made death threats to Obama, Waters pleads for leniency

The defense attorney and family of Stephen Taubert, 61, are asking that he be sentenced to home detention and probation

Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., arrive for the House Democrats’ caucus meeting in the Capitol on Nov. 15, 2018. Waters and Barack Obama received death threats from New York man, Stephen Taubert, 61. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., arrive for the House Democrats’ caucus meeting in the Capitol on Nov. 15, 2018. Waters and Barack Obama received death threats from New York man, Stephen Taubert, 61. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 26, 2019 at 11:16am

The family and defense attorney of a New York man convicted of threatening to kill President Barack Obama and Rep. Maxine Waters is asking that he be sentenced to home detention and probation.

Stephen Taubert, 61, was found guilty in March of targeting prominent black Democratic leaders Obama and Waters due to their race. But he does not have a history of violence, and the threats were just words, his family and defense team said, according to Syracuse.com. Relatives wrote that he “likes to provoke” and believes the First Amendment allows him to say anything he wants.

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In addition to threatening Waters and Obama, Taubert also made threats against an NAACP office, Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena and a former Syracuse mayor. 

Taubert has not been consistently treated for mental illness, and has undiagnosed autism, in addition to other physical ailments, his lawyer said. At different points in his life, Taubert has been diagnosed as having schizophrenia, anxiety, and adjustment disorder, according to court records reviewed by Syracuse.com.

Taubert was convicted of three crimes after a three-day trial in March: retaliating against a federal official, threatening in interstate commerce and threats against a former president.

Those crimes could result in a maximum 20-year prison sentence, though federal sentencing guidelines suggest Taubert should receive roughly three to five years behind bars.

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In a letter to the judge presiding over the case, one of Taubert’s sisters called her younger brother, “one of the most softhearted people I know,” citing his perfect record remembering family members’ birthdays.

That comment is at odds with recordings of a conversation Taubert had with an officer with the U.S. Capitol Police, whom Taubert called “n —– boy” more than 30 times in a face-to-face interview. The recording was played for jurors during Taubert’s trial.

“I sat there and thought that these people who did not know him, a jury of his peers, will hear an angry prejudiced old man,” Taubert’s sister Joan Taubert Lamb wrote in a court document, Syracuse.com reported. “I am not by any means condoning the language that was used in the interview when I say this but the voice heard was that of a man, my brother, that was scared and confused.”

Taubert Lamb said she is confident her brother is sorry for lashing out. Taubert has acknowledged in a letter from jail to another confidant that he “needs to do something to manage his emotions and not speak out with his anger,” the confidant wrote in a letter to the court pleading for a lenient sentence.

The confidant wrote that she and her mother, who is Taubert’s partner, do not feel unsafe around Taubert.

Taubert “has never hurt anyone or caused anyone physical harm,” Taubert Lamb, his sister, wrote to the court. “It is a shame that with all this political unrest in our country that my brother got caught up in his loyalty, and not thinking through how hurtful his words may be to others.”

Taubert’s threats against African-Americans and other people and organizations date back to at least 2013, when he threatened to burn down the NAACP office in Baltimore.

In 2017, he told the staff of Mayor Stephanie Miner that their boss should be “shot down.” He threatened to go on a shooting spree at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland after discovering that veterans would not receive a discount for an event.

Taubert placed a call to Waters’ local congressional office in July 2018, threatening to kill the congresswoman. During the call, he used offensive language and racial slurs, including the N-word.

A year earlier, he called the office of then-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota,  threatening to “hang” then-President Obama.

Taubert is “proven to be undeterred” in his threats, prosecutors have argued, according to Syracuse.com.

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