|Re: 3/13/2015 - New Haven Register: Connecticut man pleads guilty to threatening judge|
Connecticut man pleads guilty to threatening judge
By Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, New Haven Register
POSTED: 03/13/15, 5:44 PM EDT |
HARTFORD >> A 35-year-old man accused of mailing threatening letters to prominent officials such as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, judges and forensic scientist Henry Lee pleaded guilty Friday to one of the counts against him.
Garrett Santillo, who was living in Hollywood, Florida, at the time of his arrest last fall, has been undergoing mental health treatment since then, according to statements made at his plea hearing in U.S. District Court.
Santillo pleaded guilty to one count of mailing a threatening communication.
While the charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, federal sentencing guidelines call for him to get between 30 and 37 months in prison and a fine of between $5,000 and $50,000.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Thompson, who presided over the plea hearing, is scheduled to sentence Santillo, who had lived in Torrington before moving to Florida, on May 27.
Santillo’s attorney, Federal Public Defender Paul Thomas, said his client has been undergoing treatment at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown since November, and that he is competent to understand the court proceedings. Thomas is expected to argue for a sentence below the federal guidelines.
The count Santillo pleaded guilty to dealt with a threat against U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny.
“When I mailed the letter to Judge Chatigny, it wasn’t meant to be taken literally,” Santillo said in court. “I didn’t have good anger-management skills.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Dayton said that, at the time Santillo wrote the letters, he had to know a reasonable person would feel threatened.
Dayton described some of the threatening letters in court.
The letter to Chatigny was mailed to his home address; he received it July 15, 2014. The letter was postmarked July 11 from Miami, Florida, but didn’t have a return address.
It demanded that Chatigny issue a ruling vindicating James Van de Velde of any involvement in the 1998 unsolved murder of Yale University student Suzanne Jovin. Van de Velde is not considered a suspect in the slaying.
“You (sic) home addresses in Conn. are public information and if you mask your identity by name or appearance, we can still track you to wherever you go and will kill you if you don’t follow what this letter instructs,” the letter said, court documents show.
About 14 other individuals in Connecticut received letters containing death threats, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. All were handwritten and mailed from the Miami area to victims’ home addresses. They contained demands for action and threatened death if the recipient failed to comply.
An August 2014 letter to Malloy stated he would be killed for signing a bill ending the death penalty in Connecticut, court documents show. Santillo also wrote that the death penalty must be imposed on those convicted of the Cheshire home invasion murders by 2016 or “we will kill multiple people at random,” court documents show.
The letter to Lee demanded he solve cases he has investigated, including the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, and ensure the killers are incarcerated in tough prisons, or “you and others you know will be killed by ways no FBI or even God will be able to STOP!”
Santillo acknowledged in court that when he wrote the letters he knew they could be perceived as threats.
Santillo indicated Friday he wasn’t able to stop himself.
A grand jury indicted Santillo in September, and authorities went to his Florida residence on Sept. 29, 2014. Santillo made a statement about killing himself and moved out of the officers’ sight, prompting them to go through a window and use a Taser on him, documents show.
When police searched his residence, they found unsent handwritten letters, including one to President Barack Obama in which Santillo threatened to kill the president.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the other counts against Santillo will be dropped, according to Dayton.
Thompson told Santillo his conviction means he won’t be able to possess any firearms.