U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Stephan M. Pazenzia said Johnny Logan Spencer Jr., 27, of Louisville, wrote and posted the poem, titled "The Sniper," on a page called NewSaxon.org. The site is described as an "Online Community for Whites by Whites." The poem was posted in August 2007, according to an arrest affidavit.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin on Friday ordered Spencer released on $25,000 bond, but kept under house arrest at a family member's home. He's charged with making threats against the president and threatening to kill or injure a major candidate for the office of the president.
The poem describes a gunman shooting and killing a "tyrant" later identified as the president, setting off panic in the wake of the fatal shot being fired.
"The bullet that he has chambered is one of the purest pride, And the inspiration on the casing reads DIE negro DIE," the poem states.
Spencer used the online moniker "Pain1488," a reference to a phrase used by white nationalists as well as an homage to Adolf Hitler.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Chance told Whalin that, even though investigators linked no weapons to Spencer, the poem doesn't qualify as protected political speech.
"This is a threat by an individual against an individual simply because of who he is," Chance said. "He is the president and he is black."
Federal public defender Laura Wyrosdick said no one took action to harm Obama in the two years the poem has been publicly available.
"We're here today because Mr. Spencer allegedly wrote a poem, a work of art," Wyrosdick said.
After the hearing, Spencer's cousin, Paula McGill of Louisville, said family members were shocked by Spencer's arrest.
"I don't think he thought it was going to catch up with him," McGill said. "He's not a harmful guy at all."
The Secret Service became aware of the poem just after the 2008 election that made Obama the first black president in U.S. history. An arrest affidavit says the Secret Service identified Spencer as the author, but never tracked him down and only referenced the writing in a report on the white supremacist National Socialist movement.
The affidavit does not say why the Secret Service made no effort to arrest Spencer for more than 15 months. The investigation didn't start until a week ago, when an informant faxed a copy of the writings to the FBI, Pazenzia said.
Spencer is currently on probation from a state drug conviction in Louisville.
If convicted of the new charges, he could face up to 15 years in prison.