Archive for Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Man gets 7 years for school bomb threats

December 19, 2007

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Man sentenced for threatening schools

A Lawrence man convicted of making threats to blow up a school will serve more than seven years in federal prison. Enlarge video

— Minutes before he was sentenced to federal prison Tuesday, a Lawrence man stood before a federal judge and said he never threatened to bomb a school.

"I still say that wasn't me," Michael Parker said about the voice recorded on Douglas County 911 tapes on the morning of April 19. "I feel pain and rage as I stand here and proclaim my innocence."

Nevertheless, U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Vratil ordered Parker, 46, to serve 85 months in prison on each of two counts of using a cell phone in making threats to blow up a school building. The sentences will be served concurrently. A jury found Parker guilty of the charges during a September trial.

Several suspicious calls were made to 911 that morning, and on some of them, a man's voice mentioned pipe bombs and schools, although no specific school was named. One call also seemed to imply a threat to City Hall. Police, aided by a cell phone company, traced the calls to an apartment at 12th and New York streets, where they arrested Parker.

The threats were made on the anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and three days after the shootings at Virginia Tech.

Assistant U.S. District Attorney David Smith presented letters to Vratil from school district and university officials in Douglas County that described the concern and disruption to the education system the 911 threats caused that day.

"Tens of thousands of people were affected by this in a negative way," Vratil said. "It's obvious to us that this had a terrible toll on the Douglas County community."

Parker's attorney, Jeffrey Morris, raised several objections to the court's pre-sentence investigation on Parker's criminal history, but all were rejected by Vratil. Morris also noted that Parker had a long history of homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and, therefore, didn't always remember or know what he was doing.

Parker pleaded with the judge to give him a light sentence so he could provide for his young son.

"I have an 11-year-old son that I always try to take care of, both monetarily and as a role model," Parker said. "I lost two children. I'm too old to make any more babies."

Parker also said he'd been harassed by police and society.

Vratil noted that Parker seemed uninterested in changing his lifestyle and that a probation report stated he was not interested in entering drug rehabilitation.

After Parker serves his prison term, he will spend three years in a court-supervised release program. He must participate in substance abuse and mental health programs, and he will undergo drug testing.

Parker said he would try to break the drug habit, adding that he isn't good at doing things he's forced to do.

"I would love it if you would write me in 12 months and tell me the good things you are doing," Vratil said.

Lawrence public schools Superintendent Randy Weseman attended the sentencing.

"I hope this is a strong message to people who have considered calling in and making a terroristic threat to schools," he said. "The system comes down hard on people who do."

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