BAY CITY, MI – Emailing a “severe and brutal” threat to hunt down and kill a lawyer for the whistleblower who triggered Donald J. Trump’s first impeachment cost a Gladwin County man time in federal prison.
Brittan J. Atkinson, 54, appeared before US District Judge Thomas L. Ludington in federal court in downtown Bay City on Thursday, June 10th. Atkinson in December pleaded guilty to a charge of making interstate communications threats to hurt. The charge is punishable by up to five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
Ludington sentenced the Beaverton resident to a year and a day in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. After serving his term, Atkinson will be supervised for another three years and must undergo drug testing, participate in mental health counseling and take the medications prescribed for him.
Before Ludington imposed the sentence, he read aloud the e-mail Atkinson had written and sent to attorney Mark S. Zaid, who represented the intelligence officer who denounced Trump’s involvement in pressuring Ukraine to investigate the former. vice president and then Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
“’All traitors must die a miserable death,’” read the judge. “’Those who represent traitors will have the same fate. We’ll hunt you down and bleed you like the pigs you are. We have nothing but time and you’re running out of it. Keep looking over your shoulder. We know who you are, where you live and who you associate with. We are all strangers to you in a crowd. The next move is yours. ‘
“The language you used in that email was more than baffling,” Ludington told Atkinson. “Can you explain to me how it occurred to you to do this?”
“Your Honor, I obviously cannot say how it occurred to me to do this,” Atkinson said. “I was in a dark place. I was self-medicating. I suffer from chronic back problems and go days without sleep. That, combined with drug use, only led to very bad choices in my life back then, Your Honor. ”
“And what is different today?” asked the judge.
“The medication and I just have a much more positive outlook on life today than we did back then,” he said. “I don’t intend to go back to using drugs. I saw the harm they did. That and… my spiritual health is better. Going back to church helped me as much as the medicine”.
Defense attorney Donald J. Neville told the judge that his client has come a long way since he committed the crime.
“He has some firmly held political convictions and felt that sitting behind a computer and sending that message was somehow the right thing to do when sending a message to people with his beliefs,” he said. “Now he sees, after all he’s been through, that this was a completely stupid and horrible decision.”
Atkinson agreed with Neville that he has improved his life since being charged.
Atkinson’s sentencing guidelines were 12 to 18 months, Neville said. He asked the judge to sentence Atkinson to the lower end of the guidelines, adding that he has already served 168 days in prison.
Assistant US Attorney Anthony P. Vance asked that Atkinson be jailed for a year.
“A 12-month sentence would reflect the seriousness of this offense,” Vance said. “This is a serious offense that significantly affected the victim, his family, friends and colleagues. … Such a judgment would also promote respect for the law and provide adequate means of deterrence for both the defendant and others who would consider sending such a threat to other individuals. ”
Vance added that Zaid was attending the sentencing hearing via Zoom and presented an impact letter to the court. Ludington said he read Zaid’s letter.
After Atkinson sent his e-mail, the US House of Representatives accused then-President Trump, who was then acquitted by the US Senate. Trump was impeached for the second time after his supporters launched a Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol over Biden’s defeat of Trump in the presidential election and false conspiracy theories that the election had been rigged. The Senate acquitted Trump in his second impeachment trial as well.
Atkinson has convictions of domestic violence, assault and beating, attempted assault, police resistance or obstruction, and malicious destruction of property, although none of these are crimes.
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