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Press Release

Ohio Man Sentenced To 35 Months In Prison For June 2013 Incident At White House ComplexDefendant Hoped To Spray-Paint The White House, Crashed Unattended Jeep In Hopes Of Diverting Law Enforcement

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia

     WASHINGTON - Joseph Clifford Reel, 33, of Kettering, Ohio, was sentenced today to 35 months in prison on a federal charge stemming from an incident in which he rigged his Jeep to travel, unattended, toward the White House.

     The sentencing was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Kathy A. Michalko, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office of the U.S. Secret Service.

     Reel pled guilty in October 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of assaulting, impeding, intimidating, and interfering with an officer or employee of the United States with a dangerous weapon. The plea agreement, which was contingent upon the Court’s approval, called for Reel to be sentenced to 35 months of incarceration, to be followed by three years of supervised release. The plea agreement also called for Reel to pay $5,345 in restitution to the U.S. Park Service for the damage he caused in the incident. The Honorable Rudolph Contreras accepted the plea agreement today and sentenced Reel accordingly.

     According to a statement of offense, signed by the defendant as well as the government, Reel left his residence in Ohio on June 6, 2013, in his 2008 Jeep Patriot, heading to Washington, D.C. for the purpose of spray-painting the “Don’t Tread on Me” snake on the White House residence, believing the action would lead others to “stand up against government.”

     On June 9, 2013, shortly after 3 a.m., Reel rigged his Jeep to crash into the White House complex. The vehicle was traveling at about 40 mph upon impact.

     Reel, who was not in the Jeep, had affixed a wooden block to the accelerator and reached into the vehicle to shift it into drive. The vehicle, which Reel had parked on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, then began moving toward the White House complex, specifically, a Secret Service guard post. At the time, an officer was on-duty and inside the guard booth. At collision, the Jeep hit a light post, a steel bollard, and a steel bike rack, causing $5,345 in damage to property of the U.S. Park Service.

     Just before he set the Jeep in motion, Reel called 911 and warned that something was about to be staged at the White House. He made the call in hopes of causing members of law enforcement to convene at the White House complex, intending to create a distraction that would increase his chances of gaining access to the White House residence and spray-painting the “Don’t’ Tread on Me” snake on the building. Instead, Reel was arrested inside the White House Complex, within minutes of the Jeep’s impact.

     As part of the investigation, law enforcement searched the Jeep and found hundreds of rounds of ammunition, eight knives of various sizes, two machetes, a hand-held spotting scope, and other items. A spray-paint can was found on the White House complex grounds, near the area where Reel was apprehended.

     Reel has been in custody since his arrest.

     “Joseph Reel is lucky to be alive after his terribly dangerous decision to launch his unmanned Jeep at a Secret Service guard post in the hopes of causing a distraction that would allow him to spray-paint a political message on the side of the White House,” said U.S. Attorney Machen.  “Reel now faces three years behind bars because of his foolish behavior.  This prosecution should send a clear message to individuals considering political stunts that risk the safety of public servants seeking to protect our national treasures.”

     In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen commended the work of the Secret Service, which swiftly responded to the incident and investigated the case. He also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the Dayton Resident Agency of the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office. Finally, he acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Legal Assistants Ashley Kellam and Donice Adams, Paralegal Specialist Selena Zuhoski, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Maia L. Miller, who prosecuted the case.


Updated February 19, 2015