Threat not serious, friends say

Two people close to a man charged with threatening to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Friday he has no violent tendencies and would never have seriously threatened violence against anyone.

In fact, they say, Raymond Hunter Geisel came to Florida from Maine earlier this year in hopes that taking a bail bondsman training course would put him on a path to a law enforcement or other career in which he could help people.

“He'd never hurt a person. It would be completely against his character,” said Geisel's girlfriend, 35-year-old Susanne Kynast, in a telephone interview from the sailboat home they share in the Florida Keys.

A mentor and Catholic Charities caseworker who took Geisel into his home in Hampden, Maine, four years ago made similar comments, noting that Geisel had emerged from a severely abusive home environment to make his way in the world.

“He says things that are inappropriate,” Richard Peer, 58, said in a telephone interview. “… I know he didn't mean it.”

Geisel faces up to five years in federal prison if convicted. The Secret Service arrested him last Saturday after another student in the bondsman course told agents she heard him say, “If he gets elected, I'll assassinate him myself.”

Another student told agents Geisel also said that he “wanted to put a bullet in the president's head,” according to court documents. Geisel has not been charged with threatening the president. Arraignment on the Obama threat charge is Aug. 18.