Kettering man who crashed Jeep at White House heading to prison

A federal judge today sentenced Joseph Clifford Reel of Kettering to 35 months in prison for crashing his Jeep last summer into a White House barricade as part of a complex effort to spray a protest sign on the White House.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras, who told Reel that “you are very fortunate’’ that no one was injured in the plot, also ordered that Reel pay the federal government $5,345 for damages to one of the steel barricades near the White House.

Contreras said he would recommend that Reel be allowed to serve his sentence in a federal facility “as close to Dayton as possible.’’ Reel also was sentenced to 36 months of supervision after his release from prison.

Reel, who has been in a Washington, D.C., prison since his arrest in June, pleaded guilty last October to federal charges of “assaulting, impeding, intimidating and interfering’’ with federal officers by using his Jeep as a weapon. Federal prosecutors agreed to a 35-month prison sentence in return for the plea.

In a clear and even voice, Reel apologized to the judge for the plot, saying he “had no intention of harming anyone,’’ adding that “my frustrations got the best of me.’’

Maia L. Miller, an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington and a native of Ohio, told the judge that Reel had planned “an exceptionally dangerous crime,’’ and it was only due to “luck’’ that nobody was hurt.

“This is something the defendant thought out well in advance,’’ she said. Miller acknowledged that since his arrest, Reel “has accepted responsibility’’ and “appears to be remorseful,’’ but she urged a prison sentence to “deter’’ Reel from breaking the law again and “discourage’’ others from trying to imitate his attack.

Reel last year told the court that after his arrest, he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. He told Contreras he has been taking medication and has “been very cooperative’’ with the court psychiatrist.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness in which a person’s mood can swing sharply between bursts of high energy and deep depression. Modern drugs often are effective to combat many of the symptoms.

Federal documents showed that Reel devised an elaborate plan to spray-paint “Don’t Tread on Me Snake’’ on the walls of the White House residence.

According to the documents, Reel believed that “other people would see what he did and it would inspire them to all come together to stand up against the government.’’

Reel left Kettering on June 6 and the following day bought a can of green spray paint from a Walmart store in Frederick, Md., which is about 50 miles from Washington.

The next day, Reel drove to suburban Washington, parked his Jeep at Arlington National Cemetery, and walked past the national monuments and the White House “in an effort to educate himself on the security measures.’’

At 3:04 a.m. on June 9, Reel telephoned 911 to report “a threat made against the president of the United States.’’ He told the operator “there was a Secret Service guy I was talking to. They were saying that they were going to stage something outside of the White House, like a car wreck.’’

Four minutes later, Reel arranged for his Jeep to crash into a barrier near the White House. Reel hoped the distraction would allow him to jump the fence protecting the White House and the adjacent Old Executive Office Building, which houses the White House staff.

But when Reel jumped the fence, Secret Service officers arrested him.

About the Author