PORTLAND, Maine — A man who sent threatening letters to Gov. Paul LePage and other government leaders was described in court by his attorney Wednesday morning as lonely, mentally ill, and a victim of harassment and abuse through the years.
Defense attorney J. Hilary Billings hoped those conditions would help convince U.S. District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby to sentence Michael R. Thomas to no more than three years in prison for a slate of crimes, including threatening members of Congress and interstate stalking.
However, Hornby opted for a prison sentence of 71 months — nearly six years — and three years of supervised release.
“It’s the sentence we recommended,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Wolff, who represented the prosecution in court Wednesday, told the Bangor Daily News after the sentencing. “We think it’s a reasonable sentence.”
Billings and Thomas each took the opportunity to address Hornby Tuesday and describe Thomas as suffering from a multitude of mental disorders, including paranoia, delusion and social anxiety. Billings told the court his client has said he was abused by a “disturbed” mother growing up and, as an adult, has had no family support system to help him deal with his own mental illnesses constructively.
“He’s an isolated and alienated individual,” Billings said. “There’s no family out there for him. There’s no network of supporters who have been around him throughout this ordeal, there’s nobody in the back of the courtroom for him today. He’s a very isolated man and he’s sick, and it’s caused him to reach out in the way that he has.”
Thomas has pleaded guilty to writing a threatening letter to LePage on June 6, 2011, as well as other charges of threatening members of Congress, mailing threatening communications, interstate stalking and possession of a firearm by a felon.
“I did not vote for you and as far as I’m concerned you are not my governor,” he wrote in the letter to LePage. “Now I’m ready to vote with a bullet. Yes. Thank God for our Second Amendment remedies. I’ve got you in my crosshairs.
“[Expletive]. As far as I’m concerned, you are the devil himself and I will put a bullet or two in you, if it’s the last thing I do,” Thomas continued. “I’m willing to sacrifice my life just to make sure you die, bastard. I will strike when you least expect it.”
Thomas also pleaded guilty to threatening U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. Thomas called Lieberman a “shameless political whore” who was “serving the Fascist Zionist conspiracy.” Thomas accused King of having “given aid and comfort to domestic enemies of the Constitution of the United States of America [and] therefore you are guilty of treason.”
In addition to politicians, Thomas admitted to sending a series of harassing and threatening anonymous letters to a man in Danvers, Mass., and the man’s neighbors between 2006 and 2011.
“His low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy have compelled him to do something that he felt gave him power over something in his life,” Billings — who said his client was long the subject of “teasing” and “ridicule,” and is a “social outcast” — told the court Wednesday.
The defense attorney also said Thomas at one point believed the FBI was engaged in a plot to frame him for criminal activity.
“Even the fact that they would be focused on him is delusional, let alone that they would undertake such a conspiratorial effort,” Billings said.
Thomas, who was led into the courtroom in an orange prison-issued jumpsuit with shackled wrists and ankles, also addressed Hornby. He said he acquired a firearm in 2004 for safety, because a man in Massachusetts had been threatening him.
“I never had any violent intent or intent to commit a crime when buying the gun,” Thomas said.
“When I wrote these letters, I was unhealthy and depressed,” he added. “I understand that what I did was wrong, and it wasn’t the right way to deal with my problems.”
While in custody, where Thomas has been since his arrest on March 25, 2011, he has been taking his medications, he told the court.
But Hornby sided with the prosecution, which argued that a strong sentence should be given, in part, to deter others from stalking and threatening violence against others.
“There’s just no question this is a very serious offense, both in the cases of the private victims, who were the subject of threatening and stalking, and the cases of the public victims, who need to be able to carry out the public’s business without distractions like these,” Hornby said when delivering his sentence. “Fear has been created, disruption has been created, and there is an ongoing need to protect the public from the threat of violence.”
An earlier version of this story contained an error. The man who sent threatening letters to Gov. Paul LePage and other government leaders was Michael R. Thomas, not Mark R. Thomas.