A lawyer for Joseph Caputo, the flag-draped 23-year-old accused of scaling a White House fence on Thanksgiving, told NBC News Sunday that his client was a “politically-conscious young man” who was simply trying to “deliver a message.”
It was a message, said the lawyer, Stephan Seeger, that “addresses the issues of education, the judiciary, the legal system. It’s a writing I suspect was earmarked for the government to see.”
Court documents have stated that Caputo left a suicide note, though Seeger said that “couldn’t be further from the truth.” Caputo’s words, he said, had been mischaracterized.
“Joe wanted to let his family know that if something did happen, there was a range of possibilities,” Seeger said. “One possibility would be that he’d be arrested. He used some words that were construed as he would be harmed. He had no intention of taking his own life.”
Seeger acknowledged that Caputo’s “manner of delivery” may have been “alarming,” but he attributed that alarm to a “climate of fear.”
“If someone does something unorthodox, it’s automatically a threat,” he said.
Caputo, who was taken into custody by the Secret Service, was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation.
Seeger said Caputo has a history of Asperger’s Syndrome (a condition on the mild side of the autism spectrum) that he has "battled fairly successfully," — though it was unclear if it had played any role in his decision to jump the fence.
The incident comes amid heightened security measures after an Army veteran pleaded guilty to scaling a White House fence with a folding knife last year.