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Phila. man charged in threats to Va. congressman

A Northeast Philadelphia man was charged with threatening the life of a Virginia congressman and his family in an Internet video that he studded with Old Testament references and in which he referred to the "final Yom Kippur."

A Northeast Philadelphia man was charged with threatening the life of a Virginia congressman and his family in an Internet video that he studded with Old Testament references and in which he referred to the "final Yom Kippur."

Norman Leboon, 38, of the 1600 block of Benner Street in Mayfair, was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia with two counts involving threats against U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican House whip.

Leboon was arrested Saturday by the FBI, three days after his YouTube video was seen by someone in San Francisco and reported to the FBI.

Although Leboon called Cantor "my congressman" in his homemade video, there seems to be no evidence Leboon has ever lived anywhere but Philadelphia and its suburbs.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert K. Reed said Cantor and his family were not harmed as a result of Leboon's alleged activities. Reed added that there was no evidence that Leboon was involved in the shot fired at Cantor's local office in Richmond after last week's vote on health insurance reform.

Leboon's brother, Peter, said yesterday that his brother's behavior had become so erratic in recent months that he also had notified the FBI after Norman Leboon posted one antigovernment YouTube rant.

"They dismissed it as no big deal," Peter Leboon said.

Peter Leboon said he tried several times to have his brother committed to a mental institution, most recently before Christmas.

Leboon said his brother had lived in Mayfair for six years and before that in Lansdowne.

Peter Leboon was concerned because his brother, who he said began showing signs of mental instability three years ago, had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

"The last time I tried to get him help, we searched the whole house, six or seven of us, we couldn't find the gun," Peter Leboon said. "I found the permit, though, and destroyed it. Whatever happened to that gun, who knows?"

Christina Wilson, 28, a neighbor, said FBI agents took Leboon away in shackles on Saturday.

That morning, Leboon was outside his house screaming at his neighbors.

"He was ranting and raving: He was going to blow everybody up on the block," said Wilson, who lives two doors from Leboon.

"For the past two years, he's been off his rocker," Wilson said. "I've called the cops plenty of times."

The police would take Leboon away, but never for more than a few hours, said James Hopkins, 39, brother of Leboon's live-in partner, John Hopkins III.

"I've called the police for two years, and the City of Philadelphia has done nothing," said James Hopkins, who lives across the street.

"He was the nicest guy when he moved in with my brother," Hopkins said. "He just turned into a giant loon."

Last year, Leboon brought an apparently homeless man to live with him, which upset his partner, James Hopkins said.

Hopkins said his brother had an argument with Leboon about the man, who Leboon claimed was a messenger from God, and Leboon assaulted his brother.

According to Philadelphia court records, Leboon was arrested by police June 14 after he threatened to kill John Hopkins and slammed his face into a wall.

But at a July 28 hearing in Municipal Court, neither Leboon nor John Hopkins appeared, and Municipal Court Judge Frank T. Brady issued a warrant for Leboon's arrest - a warrant that remains outstanding.

John Hopkins, who attended Leboon's federal court hearing yesterday, could not be located afterward for comment.

James Hopkins said he learned of Leboon's videos when his wife discovered them on YouTube.

"He's made threats to Obama," he said. "There's threats to the pope. He threatens to stone him."

The videos were made in Leboon's kitchen on a desktop computer with a Web cam attached to the monitor, Hopkins said.

Wilson, who has three children, said parents would have to run out and grab their children when Leboon would come outside and start preaching that he was God.

Wilson said she did not know about the videos until she saw one on the news.

"The scary thing is, there's somebody two doors from you and you don't know everything about them," she said.

Cantor, a fifth-term congressman whose Seventh District runs from Richmond northwest to Harrisonburg, issued a statement saying that the FBI told him of the video threat over the weekend and that a suspect was in custody.

Cantor's press secretary, Brad Dayspring, said "the congressman will have no further comment on this threat or the investigation" and directed questions to the FBI.

Norman Leboon, a tall, stocky man, appeared yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carol Sandra Moore Wells. Wells granted Reed's motion to have Leboon held without bail pending trial as a risk of flight and a danger to others.

Reed said that Leboon had a history of mental illness and that he would undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

In his YouTube video, Leboon referred to himself as the "son of the God of Enoch," an apparent reference to the character from Genesis who was the son of Cain and the father of Methuselah.

Referring to the Jewish holy day of atonement, Leboon's video warned Cantor: "Remember, Eric . . . our judgment time, the final Yom Kippur has been given." The video then refers to Cantor as "Lucifer, you're a pig . . . you're an abomination."

Peter Leboon said Norman Leboon was divorced and has two children, 15 and 16.

After leaving school following 10th grade, Norman Leboon worked in pharmacies and supermarkets as a manager before he was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and began collecting Social Security benefits, his brother said.

"I think a lot of this started when he became disabled," Peter Leboon said. "He had a lot of time on his hands . . . and soon he became obsessed with the whole theme of religion and politics."

He said he hoped that the federal charges might lead to psychiatric treatment for his brother.

"We're hoping he gets the help he needs," Peter Leboon said. "You can't force a person to get help."