Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Mental Patient Busted While In Mental Hospital For Threats

What is happening in this country? Could it be, ahh, a tad of racial profiling? No, we don’t do that sort of thing here. Except in a town like, say, Bend Oregon, where people called the FBI after 9/11 because a store was owned by a Pakistani, and maybe a few other places where being brown meant you were automatically suspecting of something-or-other...

Patient charged with threat against Bush
Mental patient says he was just joking
A patient at the Alton Mental Health Center has been charged with threatening President George W. Bush.

Arafat Nijmeh, a Palestinian who lives in Belleville, had been temporarily committed to the mental health center when he made the threat on March 18. Two psychiatric technicians called the Secret Service.

Nijmeh told federal agents the next day that "to cut off his (appendage) is not too harsh, considering what he has done to my country," according to the indictment.

After the agents began reading Nijmeh his rights, Nijmeh claimed it was a joke.

A federal grand jury this week indicted Nijmeh, 26, of 1000 Royal Heights Road, Apt. 5, on two counts of threatening the president, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Legal experts said authorities may have trouble making the charges stick, though.

"I'm absolutely astonished," said J. Steven Beckett, University of Illinois law professor. "It's national security gone berserk."

Prosecuting the case isn't without its problems, the experts said.

"I think he ought to have an insanity defense because he has no intent to commit the crime because he was locked up inside a mental institution," said Southern Illinois University School of Law Professor William Schroeder. "I'm not surprised that he was charged, though. That kind of thing really gets them worked up."

But Nijmeh's criminal history may have been a factor as well.

In 2003, he pleaded guilty to aggravated battery after police said he struck a woman on the head with a rock.

"If he's a guy with a violent history, he has shown a step towards violence, perhaps making the threat more credible," said Andrew Leipold, University of Illinois law professor.

Leipold said Nijmeh will probably seek an insanity defense.

"The feds tightened up the insanity defense a lot after John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan," he said. "It's pretty tough to make that case now."

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 239-2570.

© 2006 Belleville News-Democrat and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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