By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON, March 13 (Reuters) - An Iraq War veteran pleaded guilty on Friday to charges of running into the White House armed with a knife before being tackled, a security breach that helped lead to a shake-up in the U.S. Secret Service.
Omar Gonzalez was charged with climbing over the White House fence on Sept. 19 and racing across the north lawn. He burst through the front door and reached as far as the executive mansion's East Room before Secret Service agents subdued him.
"Are you guilty?" U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer asked Gonzalez, who was dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit.
"Yes, yes, your honor," said Gonzalez, formerly of Copperas Cove, Texas. He gave his age as 43, though prosecutors had said he was 42.
Gonzalez was carrying a folding knife when he was arrested and told a Secret Service agent that he needed to tell President Barack Obama that the atmosphere was collapsing. The Obamas were not in the White House when the incident occurred.
Gonzalez, who has no prior convictions and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, pleaded guilty to federal charges of illegal entry with a dangerous weapon and assault on a federal officer.
He faces up to 10 years in prison for the illegal entry charge and eight years for the assault accusation, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Collyer said prosecutors and the defense had agreed that sentencing guidelines called for 12 to 18 months in prison and possible fines. Sentencing is set for June 8.
Gonzalez will also undergo supervised release after he leaves prison, and conditions include avoiding contact with the Secret Service, Collyer said.
The security breach was among a series of embarrassments for the Secret Service, which is charged with guarding the president and his family. The agency's director stepped down in October.
In the most recent incident, two senior agents are under investigation after driving a government car through an area at the White House where colleagues were investigating a suspicious package.
Michael McCaul, chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement the car crash allegations added to incidents that had caused Americans to question confidence in the agency.
But he said he was encouraged that the agency had asked the Homeland Security Department's inspector general to investigate the incident. "My committee will continue its oversight to help restore the integrity of the Secret Service," he said. (Reporting by Ian Simpson and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bill Trott and Mohammad Zargham)
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