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Butler County man guilty of Bush threats

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

By Torsten Ove, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

On the evening of Sept. 11, 2002, after a day in which President Bush was in Shanksville, Somerset County, to meet quietly with the families of those who had died on United Airlines Flight 93 a year before, the White House received two obscenity-laced e-mails addressed to the president.

"I will kill you. I will blow up the White House," said one, purportedly written by an executive of Joy Manufacturing Co. in Franklin, Venango County.

The second, signed in the name of a Franklin police officer, said, "I will blow up the Franklin courthouse and proceed to other courthouses. I will kill you and the vice president. I hate you. I hate America. You will die. Moslem is strong and alive in Venango County."

It turns out the messages were the work of one disgruntled man, James Paul Trauger, 38, of Adams in Butler County, but Bush was never really the target.

Yesterday, Trauger admitted in federal court that he sent them from his home computer as part of a bizarre plot to get back at a police officer, who had arrested him, and the company that had fired him.

He reluctantly pleaded to two counts of willingly making a threat to take the life of the president.

"I sent the e-mail," he said, "but I didn't consider it a threat."

His plea and a U.S. Secret Service search warrant show that his motive was to cause trouble for Joy Manufacturing and police Officer Troy Owen by making it look as if they were threatening the president.

In the early morning of Sept. 11, Trauger tried to send his first threatening message from his home computer, but because he addressed it simply to "George Bush," it was never delivered.

That evening, after all the ceremonies of the first anniversary of Sept. 11 had concluded, he tried again.

Trauger sent a message at 8:45 p.m. to president@whitehouse.gov, called Bush an obscene name and said he would kill him. He also wrote, "If you want me come and get me. I will blow your (expletive) head off."

In his second message, sent at 9:13 p.m., he wrote that he hated America, that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would die and that he was "unstoppable." The message also said, "I have used local companies like Joy Manufacturing to frame innocent people."

The first message was signed: "Ken Knapp, Joy Mining, Franklin, Pa., Cooperstown, Pa." Joy Mining is a division of Joy Manufacturing.

The second was signed: "Troy Owens, Franklin Police Department."

According to the Secret Service, Trauger had created Internet accounts in those names, although he misspelled Owen's name.

Despite his background as a computer expert, he apparently didn't realize the government could easily track down the true author because he had a dedicated Internet line in his house on Stoup Road. A subpoena of Nauticom Internet Services revealed the messages were sent from Trauger's computer.

The Secret Service searched his house on Sept. 18 and hauled away the computer, a printer and other equipment.

Agents arrested him two days later at Bayer AG in Robinson, where he worked at the time. He turned over 10 rifles, shotguns and pistols and a box of ammunition for "safekeeping," he said, but he won't get those back because he is now a convicted felon.

The federal case is over except for Trauger's sentencing in January, but two related cases are pending.

One is a civil suit filed by Owen for defamation. The other is the Venango County criminal case in which Owen arrested Trauger on May 24, 2002, and charged him with vandalizing and burglarizing Joy Manufacturing.

Reached yesterday, Owen said he couldn't discuss either case because of the pending litigation.

But a May 19, 2002, search warrant for Trauger's house and car prepared by Franklin police indicated they were looking for, among other items, stolen computer software manuals from the company. Police found the manuals in his car at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Trauger is free on $10,000 bond pending sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge William Standish. He faces a possible maximum of 10 years in prison but could get as little as four months.


Torsten Ove can be reached at tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.

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