Hobart man, 20, who made threats to President Trump on Facebook gets 30-month sentence

Chicago Tribune

October 30, 2019 1:16 pm

Steffon Gonzalez (Lake County Sheriff’s Department)

A Hobart man who law enforcement said made threats on Facebook to President Donald Trump will serve jail time.

Judge Philip Simon on Tuesday sentenced Steffon Gonzalez, 20, to 30 months in prison to be served concurrently for one count of threats against the president and one count of obstruction of justice. A second charge of threats against the president was dropped, according to court records.

Gonzalez, who was previously charged in Lake Superior Court with one count of intimidation, a level 6 felony, pleaded guilty July 30 to the two counts in U.S. District Court in Hammond, records said. He was remanded and will be placed as close to Northwest Indiana as possible, according to the records.

According to the indictment, Gonzalez posted March 28 on Facebook “that he was standing outside with a rifle ‘ready to kill’ the president.” Gonzalez also posted “that he was standing outside the president’s location with a bullet ‘chambered’ to ‘blow his head off,’” the indictment states.

Gonzalez made the post March 28, the day that Trump attended a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., according to court records. The obstruction of justice charge stems from Gonzalez attempting “to destroy and conceal” his Facebook account as the Secret Service investigated threats against the president, according to the indictment.

After receiving a tip about the threat, the Secret Service requested assistance from Hobart police as law enforcement went to Gonzalez’s residence in the 3800 block of Parker Street, according to an affidavit.

“(Gonzalez) was advised he was under arrest for threatening the government, and he immediately stated he didn’t put anything on Facebook, and his account apparently was hacked,” the affidavit states.

Gonzalez told agents he was at home when he “received a ‘pop up’ response about community standards stating he couldn’t post on Facebook any longer,” according to the affidavit. The message said “he had made a threat ‘to something,’ ” the affidavit states.

Gonzalez said he had logged into his account in different places and other people have access to his account, according to the affidavit.

“Gonzalez denied making any threats to the president,” according to the affidavit.

Gonzalez “maintained his innocence” and “swore on his son’s life and his ‘older Grandma’s’ grave he was telling the truth,” the affidavit states. Gonzalez said “he could be believed” because he was looking at the agent “dead in the eye,” according to the affidavit.

Gonzalez was asked if he knew the president was speaking in Grand Rapids on the day the post was made and said he did not know that, the affidavit states.

Gonzalez’s family and girlfriend told investigators they did not talk to Gonzalez about a Facebook post or the president, according to the affidavit.

Officers found 9 mm rounds and gunpowder wrapped in a plastic bag in Gonzalez’s room, the affidavit states. Gonzalez claimed “he wasn’t the only person who has access to his room,” according to the affidavit.

Gonzalez was ordered to receive substance abuse treatment as well as educational and vocational training as part of his sentence, court records said.

Michelle L. Quinn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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