Feds: Hoax beliefs fueled death threats to Sandy Hook parent
Dec. 08, 2016
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A Florida woman has been charged with making death threats against the parent of a child who died in the Sandy Hook school shooting massacre because she thought the attack was a hoax, federal authorities announced Wednesday.
Lucy Richards, 57, of Tampa was arrested Monday after a grand jury indictment on four felony counts of transmitting threats, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.
The threats were made Jan. 10, according to authorities, and included messages that said, "you gonna die, death is coming to you real soon," and "LOOK BEHIND YOU IT IS DEATH."
Another threat said, "there's nothing you can do about it," according to court documents.
The indictment said the threats were made in Palm Beach County to a person identified only by the initials "L.P." Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Schall wouldn't say how the threats were delivered or provide more details, nor would she provide further details about why federal authorities said Richards thought the attack was a hoax.
The messages quoted in the indictment match a series of voicemails released online in January and this week by Lenny Pozner and others who have publicly sought to debunk conspiracy theories surrounding Sandy Hook and other mass slayings. Pozner's 6-year-old son Noah was in first grade when he was killed in the Sandy Hook shootings.
A friend of Pozner confirmed that Pozner was the target of the threats detailed in the indictment released Wednesday.
The friend responded on Pozner's behalf to emails and other messages sent to Pozner, saying the family had been told by federal prosecutors not to talk to the media about the case. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of fear of retaliation by people who believe the shootings did not take place.
A year ago, Pozner and his ex-wife called on Florida Atlantic University to fire a professor that the couple said taunted them with blog posts about the Sandy Hook massacre being staged.
"The heartache of burying a child is a sorrow we would not wish upon anyone. Yet to our horror, we have found that there are some in this society who lack empathy for the suffering of others. Among them are the conspiracy theorists that deny our tragedy was real. They seek us out and accuse us of being government agents who are faking our grief and lying about our loss," they wrote in an opinion piece published by the Sun Sentinel.
The professor was fired in January, and he is now suing FAU for violating his constitutional rights.
Others linked to the Sandy Hook massacre also have reported harassment by conspiracy theorists who argue the event was staged to erode support for Second Amendment rights to bear arms.
A New York City man accused of approaching the sister of slain Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto and angrily claiming the massacre hadn't happened was sentenced to two years of probation in April as part of a plea deal. A teacher in the Newtown School District told a court in September that he had brought a weapon to school because he feared for his safety after receiving what he said were threats from conspiracy theorists. A Connecticut man was charged in September for allegedly phoning in a threat to the new Sandy Hook Elementary School that replaced the building demolished after shootings.
Richards' indictment comes nearly four years after the Dec. 14, 2012, shootings in which a gunman with a rifle killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The man also killed himself and his mother.
Richards awaits an initial court appearance Dec. 19 in Fort Lauderdale. Court records didn't list an attorney for her.
Each felony charge of transmitting threats is punishable by up to five years in prison in event of a conviction.
Associated Press reporter Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.