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Profile: Richard Humphreys
Richard Humphreys was a participant or observer in the following events:
Richard Humphreys, a self-proclaimed prophet from Oregon who is described in media reports as “delusional,” is arrested in Watertown, South Dakota, for making a joke about a “burning bush.” Humphreys, who sometimes calls himself “Israel Humphreys,” gets into a barroom discussion with a truck driver; the bartender overhears the conversation and alerts the police, telling them that Humphreys discussed a “burning Bush” and the possibility of someone pouring flammable liquid on President Bush and lighting it. Bush is slated to visit Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the day after Humphreys’s barroom conversation. Humphreys is charged with threatening to kill or harm the president. During his trial, Humphreys will explain: “I said God might speak to the world through a ‘burning Bush.’ I had said that before and I thought it was funny. It was prophetizing.” The court will learn that Humphreys had made similar statements in Internet chat rooms, including the following: “If you hear that a man runs up and throws gasoline and a match to Bush you will know that God did speak through the burning Bush.” He has also sent similar statements to the Bush White House via fax machines, and during the Clinton administration expressed the desire that President Clinton and his wife Hillary Clinton would commit suicide. Humphreys will be convicted and sentenced to 37 months in prison. He will appeal his conviction, saying his comment is a prophecy protected under his right to free speech. His appeal is denied, but the appellate court will find that he suffers from a bipolar disorder and order that he serve his sentence in a federal medical center. “Hopefully, medication over a significant period of years will result in his being able to live outside the prison confines, free of delusions and the type of behavior he exhibited here,” the court will rule. [Associated Press, 12/6/2002; Associated Press, 12/23/2003]
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