A Berryville man pleaded no contest Wednesday to charges that he threatened to kill his wife and gays at the Eureka Springs restaurant where she worked in 2016.
Jeremiah Bliss-Leija was sentenced to five years of probation and was released Wednesday from the Carroll County jail, said Tony Rogers, the county's prosecuting attorney.
According to a plea agreement, the 419 days Bliss-Leija sat in jail awaiting trial was sufficient punishment for one count of terroristic threatening and misdemeanor assault on a family member.
In accordance with the plea agreement, Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson sentenced Bliss-Leija to five years' probation on a second terroristic-threatening charge and making a terrorist threat, both felonies.
Rogers said the charges sound similar but are quite different, with terroristic threatening being a threat against a person, and making a terrorist threat being a threat against a group, in this case gays at the restaurant.
Bliss-Leija agreed to have no contact with Cafe Amore, the Eureka Springs restaurant, or 10 people named in the plea agreement.
Rogers said if Bliss-Leija violates the terms of his probation, he could be sentenced to 30 years in prison on the charges in the plea agreement.
Bliss-Leija entered the plea before Jackson in court in Berryville. Initially, he pleaded innocent.
He also was ordered to pay $420 in court costs and fees.
During an argument Nov. 16, 2016, Bliss-Leija's wife told him that she wanted a divorce and then he threatened her, according to the affidavit from Berryville police officer C. Boren.
Bliss-Leija's wife paraphrased the threat her husband made, saying, "He was going to buy an automatic rifle, go to Cafe Amore and kill all of those f-----s, slit her throat and die an honorable death by bringing jihad to Berryville," according to the affidavit.
Bliss-Leija told police that he never threatened to kill anyone and that his wife misconstrued statements he made during an intense argument.
Bliss-Leija was vocal about his hatred of gays, his wife told police.
Bliss-Leija told police that he believed Cafe Amore was "owned and operated by homosexuals" and that his wife had been associating with them at the restaurant, according to the affidavit.
Associating with gays was "not permitted, according to the Torah," he told police.
In Judaism, the Torah refers to the law of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures.
"Jeremiah stated that according to the Torah, homosexuality is an abomination and that homosexuals deserved to be stoned to death," according to Boren's Nov. 17, 2016 affidavit. "Jeremiah advised that he agrees with the stoning of homosexuals. Jeremiah advised that according to the Torah, homosexuals deserve capital punishment, to be put to death. He stated that this is the statement he made to [his wife] the prior evening."
Bliss-Leija was arrested Nov. 17, 2016.
During an interview with Berryville police on the day he was arrested, Bliss-Leija said it "could be interpreted" that he is a terrorist, and he was once detained overnight by the Transportation Security Administration during a flight to Israel.
According to Boren's affidavit, Bliss-Leija said he owns a .25-caliber handgun.
"Jeremiah's mother is German and his father is Mexican," according to the probable-cause affidavit. "He was born in Orange County, Calif. But it should be noted that Jeremiah speaks with an Arabic accent. This accent would come and go during the interview."
Bliss-Leija told Berryville police that he spends a lot of time in discussion groups on the Internet and about 60 percent of them are "Arab groups."
Metro on 01/11/2018
Print Headline: Man pleads no contest in threats to kill gays