A Texas Court threw the book at a woman for threats to the president. Politics may have had little to do with this case but threatening the president's life has become all too common.
Shouldn't the Secret Service and the courts be doing more to make this a less attractive way to get attention?
Straight from the "But.. I'm a victim too" category.
Shannon Guess Richardson, a 39-year-old actress from Texas, was sentenced to 18 years in prison this week for sending a trio of poison letters to politicians, including the President.
At her trial, Richardson threw out every stop to win the heart of the judge. She might have hoped to win a reduced sentence by pleading guilty to the charge of possessing and producing a biological toxin. If so,the legal ploy wasn't too successful.
At the sentencing phase, Richardson explained that she "never intended for anybody to be hurt," and added that she was "not a bad person; I don't have it in me to hurt anyone."
Judge Michael H. Schneider was unconvinced and gave her the maximum sentence and ordered her to pay restitution of around $367,000. He also noted that Richardson had put many lives in danger and threatened public officials.
Shannon Richardson's acting career was limited to minor roles in TV series, such as "The Walking Dead" (Third zombie from the right.) But, due to her poorly-thought-out and very dangerous plotting, that is all gone now.
(S)he thought security measures would prevent anyone from opening the letters addressed to Obama, then New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Mark Glaze, who at the time was director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg's group advocating for tougher gun control.
Richardson mailed three ricin-laced letter from her New Boston home, and then went to police to falsely accuse her husband of the crime. Understandably, her husband, Nathan Richardson, filed for last June, a day before she was arrested.
The finely-powdered ricin is a highly dangerous substance and can be toxic in very small samples. It was famously used in 1978 in a London assassination of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov. In that case, the victim was injected with a small hollowed out BB loaded with the toxin. That's all it took to kill.
The substance is so deadly, Richardson could easily have accidentally poisoned herself, her husband and her children.
According to court documents, Richardson obtained an email address, a PayPal shopping account and a post office box in her husband's name without his knowledge. While her husband was at work on the morning of May 20, 2013, Richard printed the mailing labels and sent the letters.
The letter to Obama read, "What's in this letter is nothing compared to what ive got in store for you mr president," according to the document. "You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face."
It seems clear that Richardson was not attempting to make a political statement by sending the poisoned emails. By blaming her husband and then lying about it to authorities, Richardson was attempting to frame her husband. Neither her own opinions- nor her husband's- about gun control were noted. Those subjects probably had nothing to do with the case.
Threats as a Plausible Motive
True, politics might not have had a direct role to play. Indirectly however, polarized politics and the gun control controversy supplied a plausible motive.
Sadly, threatening the life of the president is becoming past-time for too many people. Words, as the saying goes, have consequences but people tend to forget that when it comes to FaceBook or Twitter. They may not be aware that just threatening the President can - in theory- carry a penalty of up to ten years in prison.
Last week, a leader of gun rights organization caused a mini-furor when she unwisely placed an assassination reference on her FaceBook account. (She captioned a image of Obama, "Where's an assassin when you need one?")
She has since made a phony apology with the usual "I am a victim" motif. Like Richardson, she noted the effects on her children for being called to account for her reckless words.
For obvious reasons and despite all her tough FaceBook boasts, she has apparently vanished from the net.. for the moment. She will doubtless return to the Internet when things have cooled down.
But this behavior is found not just in tirelessly-insane Texas.
Last year, in South Carolina, a man was arrested for threatening the life of the president as well as shooting up a local tavern. (It was in fact, a close call, since following his FaceBook posting, he had purchased three firearms.)
A year before that, a Florida man was arrested on a felony complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Orlando, after he explicitly threatened the president. Christopher Castillo reportedly stated that if Obama were to be re-elected he planned "to hunt him down and kill him watch the life disappear from his eyes." When warned that threatening the president was a crime, Castillo was unrepentant,
“I wouldn’t call it a threat but more of a promise, let them come after me… Be more than happy to take a few of them with me.”
His lawyers' defense? First Amendment rights. (I am not joshing you.)
And what was punishment? Castillo was sentenced to a mere 15 months in prison.
In Alabama a man found guilty of threatening the president's life served only one year in prison.
No wonder so many people feel it is worth the risk.
Even if you take out the gun debate or racism from the equation, you can see it's not just white gun-nuts. For examples of that, see here and here.
So on the surface, the copy-cat frame-up concocted by Ms. Richardson might have sounded plausible enough. At least for a badly-written TV show. Prosecutors say that from the beginning the real-life police investigators didn't buy her story.
What ever her motives, Richardson's stunt thoughtlessly risked the lives of the public officials and the lives of their staff and all of the postal workers who might have handled the mails.
In Her Right Mind
Quite naturally, Richardson begged for leniency from the judge, asking for for "mercy and compassion." She claimed that she had already been punished enough by being away from her six children. Actors often need props for a great performance and children will do in a pinch. (In fact, according to the news, her youngest was born in prematurely while Richardson was incarcerated.)
"The sentiments expressed in those letters were not mine," Richardson said.
Perhaps that's true. She was writing as her husband. At the same time, she herself was playing the part of a mentally-disturbed wife who would risk the life of the president to settle a score with her husband. A very advanced form of method acting, we can presume.
The article states:
Richardson also was tearful at times. "I don't feel like I was in my right mind leading up to that point," she said.There's no question that she wasn't thinking intelligently but, judging by some of the Texas politicians, that's not much of a defense.
Her lawyer, Tonda Curry, has a gift for understatement and a colorful use of language. Curry told reporters that her client was "exuding desperation to get out of the situation she was in."
The situation that she created for herself, the lawyer surely meant to say.
In addition to desperation, we can be sure, that Richardson was exuding a lot of sweat and tears and other bodily fluids, as she looks toward her new role as the "innocent" inmate and the behind-bars mommy.