June 8, 2017 at 4:04 AM
A Florida woman who claimed the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax was sentenced Wednesday to five months in prison for making death threats against the parent of one of the students killed in the attack.
Lucy Richards, 57, pleaded guilty to one count of transmitting threats through interstate communications, admitting that she sent the parent a message reading, "LOOK BEHIND YOU IT IS DEATH," court documents show.
The parent was referred to only as "L.P." in court documents, but Reuters and the Associated Press identified him as Lenny Pozner. His 6-year-old son Noah was among the 20 children and six adults shot and killed by gunman Adam Lanza at the Newtown, Conn., school in December 2012.
Prosecutors alleged Richards left menacing voice mails and emails with Pozner last January, saying in one, "death is coming to you real soon." Three of the charges in her four-count indictment were dismissed under the plea agreement.
After she completes her prison sentence, Richards will be confined to her home for five months, according to court records. She will also undergo three years of supervised release, during which time she will be required to maintain a daily log of her computer activity.
In court Wednesday, U.S. District Judge James Cohn told Richards her threats against Pozner were "disturbing," according to the Associated Press.
"I'm sure he wishes this was false and he could embrace Noah, hear Noah's heartbeat and hear Noah say 'I love you, Dad'," Cohn said, as reported by the Associated Press. "Your words were cruel and insensitive. This is reality and there is no fiction. There are no alternative facts."
Prosecutors agreed to a somewhat reduced prison term for Richards "based upon the defendant's recognition and affirmative and timely acceptance of personal responsibility," the plea agreement says.
Richards apologized to Pozner in a statement, according to the Associated Press, which reported that she had mental health problems, including anxiety disorder and agoraphobia.
"I don't know where my heart and head were that day, but they were not in the right place," she said. "It was the worst mistake of my life and I am truly sorry."
Sandy Hook hoaxers have peddled conspiracy theories about the mass shooting in online message boards, blogs and grainy YouTube videos. Their main allegation is that the massacre was a "false flag" or fake attack orchestrated by government officials to build support for gun control. There is no credible evidence supporting such a claim.
Hoaxers have harassed numerous parents and relatives of the Sandy Hook victims over the years, and Richards is the latest to atone for such actions.
In 2014, a self-proclaimed hoaxer in Virginia was sentenced to a year in prison after he stole Sandy Hook memorial signs from playgrounds honoring the victims. The following year, a Brooklyn man received a one-year suspended sentence for intimidating the sister of Victoria Soto, a slain Sandy Hook teacher hailed as a hero for shielding her first-graders during the attack.
Pozner, the target of extensive harassment, moved from Connecticut to Florida with his wife and two preteen daughters shortly after his son's death. He has since dedicated himself to exposing hoaxers and debunking conspiracy theories about what happened at Sandy Hook, according to a New York Magazine profile last year.
He started by releasing Noah's death certificate and report card to prove his son was real, the magazine reported, and once spent four hours fielding questions from conspiracy theorists on a Facebook group called Sandy Hook Hoax. He has filed hundreds of copyright claims to have pictures of his son taken down from conspiracy websites and has written commentaries in local newspapers calling out hoaxers by name. In 2015, he published a 165-page e-book that lambasted a leading hoaxer. And last year, he sued the same hoaxer for invasion of privacy.
"Conspiracy theorists erase the human aspect of history," Pozner told New York Magazine. "My child — who lived, who was a real person — is basically going to be erased."
Pozner also confronted James Tracy, a former academic who was one of the earliest purveyors of Sandy Hook conspiracy theories. After Tracy demanded proof from Pozner that his son was real, Pozner called on his employer, Florida Atlantic University, to take action against him. The university fired Tracy shortly after. He has filed a lawsuit in Florida to get his job back.
Court documents show that Richards learned of Pozner from news stories about Tracy's firing. One of the stories listed Pozner's phone number.
"Richards saw the telephone number and, because she was angry over the firing, decided to call L.P.," reads a statement of facts filed with the court.
Prosecutors said Richards left four voice mails and two emails with Pozner on Jan. 10, 2016.
"You gonna die," she allegedly said. "Death is coming to you real soon and there's nothing you can do about it."
All the messages contained "true threats," prosecutors said.
On Wednesday, Pozner told Reuters he was satisfied with the sentence Richards received.
"For me it's about raising awareness to this growing problem of alternative facts," he said, "and people who are easily influenced by those facts, and then, take it upon themselves to think that they are the part of some army of good."
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