Secret Service investigates Obama effigy in Emery County town

Published: Monday, Oct. 29 2012 3:12 p.m. MDT

ORANGEVILLE, Emery County — A disabled man's Halloween yard display earned him a visit from the U.S. Secret Service over the weekend. 

"(The homeowner) wanted to put something up and his parents helped him," Orangeville Mayor Patrick Jones told the Deseret News Monday.

"It just grew into that thing."

"That thing" featured one dummy wearing a Mitt Romney mask and another wearing a President Barack Obama mask. The Romney dummy was seated in a chair, holding the end of a rope that was draped over a tree branch and tied around the Obama dummy's neck.

The mayor said a concerned citizen called his home Friday and left a message about the display. He wasn't able to go check on the complaint until Saturday morning.

"I was shocked," Jones said. "It looked real. I was kind of taken aback."

The mayor initially suspected someone had played a prank on the homeowner, because the man is a paraplegic. But when Jones contacted the man's parents at their home, they confirmed that they had set up the display at their son's request.

"They went and took it down," Jones said. "They were strictly thinking Halloween (display), there wasn't any racism involved at all, though I can see how people would think that."

The display was brought to the attention of the Secret Service, which sent an agent out Saturday to investigate, said Michael Mantyla, resident agent-in-charge of the Salt Lake City office.

"We walk a fine line when it comes to displays like this," Mantyla said, referring to the First Amendment's protections for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. "But we also have a job to do to assess the dangerousness of someone making a threat against one of our protectees."

The display had already been dismantled by the time the Secret Service agent arrived, Mantyla said. He could not provide any additional details specific to the case, citing agency policy, but did say incidents like it "rarely occur" in Utah.

York said Orangeville is an inclusive community, noting that in the 63 years he's lived in the town he's never been aware of any racial divide.

"People just don't think in those terms in our community," he said.

E-mail: gliesik@desnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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