U. S. District Court Judge James Whittemore, Middle District of Florida, Received Threat and Provided Testimonial Statement at Trial
SAN FRANCISCO – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – United States Attorney Kevin V. Ryan announced that yesterday afternoon a federal jury convicted Dera Marie Jones of sending a death threat across state lines. The jury, after deliberating for three hours, found that the defendant intended to threaten her victims when she posted the following message on an AOL Message Board dedicated to the Terri Schiavo case: “IF SHE DIES, I WILL KILL MICHAEL SCHIAVO AND THE JUDGE THIS IS FOR REAL!!”. The guilty verdict followed a two-day jury trial before U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer. This conviction is the result of an investigation by the FBI.
Ms. Jones, 32, of San Francisco, was indicted by a federal grand jury on May 12, 2005. She was charged with violating Title 18, United States Code, Section 875(c), transmitting a threat in interstate commerce.
On March 21, 2005, the United States Congress passed a law requiring further review of the legal case between Michael Schiavo and Terri Shiavo’s parents, and U.S. District Judge James Whittemore, of the Middle District of Florida, was assigned to the case. On March 22, 2005, Judge Whittemore declined to issue an order to reinsert Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube.
According to a stipulated testimonial statement read at the defendant’s jury trial, Judge Whittemore accessed the “Terri Schiavo Case” message board on America Online on March 23, 2005, read a message posted by “VobolAxe,” and became concerned for his safety and the safety of his family. Further testimony at trial established that another concerned member of the public also read the message that night and reported it to the FBI. Although the AOL account used to post the threat was registered in another person’s name, FBI agents tracked down the source of the message to San Francisco, and determined that it had been sent by the defendant, Dera Marie Jones.
The defendant remains released on bond. The sentencing of Ms.Jones is scheduled for March 15, 2006, before Judge Breyer in San Francisco. The maximum statutory penalty for a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 875(c) is five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Robert David Rees and Blake D. Stamm are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Ana Guerra, Nancy Dick, and Miche Sharpe. The prosecution is the result of a nationwide, week-long investigation by the FBI.