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Published May 17, 2011, 03:29 PM

Michigan Man Accused of Threatening President Obama

A Port Huron, Mich., man with a lengthy criminal history was ordered detained Tuesday on charges he threatened to kill President Barack Obama in several letters, including one in which he allegedly wrote: "It is my duty to destroy you. And I will."

By: Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press (MCT)

DETROIT — A Port Huron, Mich., man with a lengthy criminal history was ordered detained Tuesday on charges he threatened to kill President Barack Obama in several letters, including one in which he allegedly wrote: "It is my duty to destroy you. And I will."

Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub concluded that James Joseph Ball, 60, was a flight risk and a danger to the community, noting he has a lengthy criminal history that stretches back four decades. Ball's rap sheet, she said, includes a burglary conviction, domestic violence, assault and battery, drunken driving charges and now a charge of threatening the life of president.

"Mr. Ball has issues," Majzoub said at the detention hearing, during which she also ordered that Ball undergo a medical and mental health evaluation. "He has had serious contacts with the law. He's had issues with violence."

Ball, a thin, graying man who appeared in court with a neck brace and a cast on his right wrist, was indicted on May 3 in Florida on charges he threatened the life of Obama. According to court documents, he mailed a series of threatening letters last August to the White House, the FBI office in Tampa and the Florida attorney general's office. In one of the letters he wrote: "I must kill the President before our country goes down the tubes. You can't catch me and when I do it my duty is done. I have a plan," court records show.

The letter that was mailed to the FBI also contained green pellets, records show.

Ball was arrested on Monday in Port Huron, where he had been living for the last two months.

According to courtroom testimony at Tuesday's detention hearing, Ball moved from Florida to Michigan in February. Currently, he is living at a boarding house in Port Huron and has a brother who lives nearby. He has no job.

Ball's lawyer, Jonathan Epstein, argued for Ball's release, saying his client is cooperating with authorities and has written a letter of apology to the United States government. Epstein also said a plea agreement has been discussed with the government.

Epstein said that when Ball wrote the threatening letters, he was on various pain medications from an operation and may have been under the influence of alcohol. He also said that Ball has met with the Secret Service three times since writing the letters, and called them as recently as Friday.

Ball was arrested Monday in Port Huron.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Barrington Wilkins countered that Ball didn't voluntarily meet with the Secret Service, but rather the federal agents "tracked him down at his residence."

"The defendant is not simply a danger to the community," Wilkins said in arguing for detention. "He has no job in Port Huron and no ties to the area ... Nothing has been demonstrated that would assure this defendant's presence in this court."

If convicted, Ball faces up to 10 years in prison.

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