By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
For two decades, Scott L. Rendelman has sent letters threatening judges, prosecutors, presidents and others with graphic violence. Yesterday, as he was sentenced in federal court in Greenbelt, Rendelman told U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus that he'd stop -- as long as Titus gave him probation instead of prison time.
Titus was not persuaded.
"You simply cannot do this to a judge and a prosecutor, much less the president of the United States," and expect probation, Titus said.
With that, Titus sentenced Rendelman to 15 years in federal prison. Not only did Titus reject Rendelman's offer, he added nearly four years to his sentence after finding that Rendelman had engaged in "extreme conduct" by sending threatening letters to two federal judges since his conviction in December.
Rendelman, 52, was found guilty of sending threatening letters to a judge and a prosecutor in Montgomery County, President Bush, the White House staff and Kevin P. Fay, a Rockville lawyer who in the mid-1980s uncovered a scheme by Rendelman to embezzle more than $240,000 from one of Fay's clients.
Rendelman faced a maximum sentence of less than 12 years in prison -- until Titus took into account the recent threats against the federal judges.
Titus rejected the argument by Rendelman's attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender John C. Chamble, that the letters caused no harm because Rendelman had not followed through on his threats.
Titus noted that Circuit Court Judge Joseph A. Dugan and Assistant State's Attorney Carol Crawford testified at Rendelman's federal trial that the threatening letters caused fear and prompted them to take security measures. Dugan and Crawford were involved in a 2005 Montgomery County trial in which Rendelman was convicted of extortion.
Soon after his conviction, Rendelman sent a letter to Crawford saying: "When I get out, I will hunt you down. You must die. Death! Death! Death!" To Dugan, Rendelman wrote, "When I get out I'll tie a rope around your neck and hang you from the ceiling of your chambers."
When asked whether he had anything to say before being sentenced yesterday, Rendelman stood and spoke from written notes for about 30 minutes.
He said he had been raped and beaten in prison. He described his letter-writing campaign as a crusade against the justice system, which he blamed for the abuse he said he endured.
"While under the government's protection, I was raped and beaten. I lost my home, my family," Rendelman said. "I will never, never, never give you people good behavior because of what you've done to me. "
Rendelman provided no specifics regarding when or where he was assaulted. He said he filed a civil lawsuit in connection with one alleged prison assault, but it was thrown out by a judge.
According to court records, Rendelman has spent all but three of the past 22 years incarcerated -- nearly all of it because of threatening letters.
Rendelman's troubles with the justice system began in the mid-1980s, when Fay uncovered a scheme by Rendelman to embezzle from Fay's client, William Elmhirst. Rendelman was convicted of embezzlement in 1986 and sentenced to 18 months.
After he was released in 1988, Rendelman was prosecuted and convicted in federal court for writing threatening letters to Elmhirst and appellate judges.
In 2004, Rendelman wrote a letter demanding $100,000 from Elmhirst. He wrote other angry letters to Elmhirst and mailed copies to Fay. Those letters were the basis of his extortion convictions in Montgomery Circuit Court in 2005.
After he was convicted in December, Rendelman wrote letters to the two federal judges, Titus said yesterday. In one of the letters, according to a government court filing, Rendelman also threatened to kill governors and legislators and to open fire at a shopping mall.
Titus said he would recommend that Rendelman receive mental health treatment. He also said he would recommend that the Federal Bureau of Prisons closely monitor any letters Rendelman sends out.