A woman accused of sending threatening messages to a Palm Beach County man whose 6-year-old son was murdered in the Sandy Hook school shootings apologized in federal court Wednesday.
But that didn’t keep a federal judge from discarding a plea deal agreed to by the defense and prosecution and imposing a harsher sentence on Lucy Richards, 57.
Richards will serve five months in prison, followed by five months in home detention with an electronic monitor and then three years supervised release. The plea agreement had not included any prison time and only 30 months of supervised release.
Judge James I. Cohn said that “hatred and bigotry” had caused Richards to threaten Lenny Pozner through emails and voice mails. Pozner’s son Noah was killed along with 19 other children and six adults by Adam Lanza in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Richards, of Brandon, admitted in court documents that she sent the threats because Pozner “was raising money for his dead son, and it made me angry because Sandy Hook never happened.”
Cohn told Richards the threats were “cruel and insensitive” and that her history of mental illness, which included a suicide attempt earlier this year, was not a factor in her decision to send the threats.
“Unfortunately for Leonard Pozner, his loss is all too real,” Cohn said. “I am sure he wishes this was fake and he could embrace Noah, feel Noah’s heartbeat and hear Noah say ‘I love you, Dad.’ All too real, Mr. Pozner is left with shattered dreams and a broken heart that will never mend.”
Following Richards’ sentencing, Pozner released a statement.
“Losing a child, particularly in the manner we lost Noah, is a horrifying, life-changing event. Day after day, I wake up with the knowledge that we have to face the rest of our life without our boy. People like Lucy Richards, who torment victims of violent crime by denying and mocking their pain are a sad reality. Her sadism is evident in her statements and the twisted joy she gets in pouring salt in our wounds and adding to our pain.
“Whatever demons drove her to threaten me, she needs to be held accountable for her crime.”
Richards was originally scheduled for a plea and sentencing hearing March 29 and was expected to receive house arrest and probation. But Richards skipped her court date and a psychological evaluation unsealed Wednesday by Cohn revealed that Richards had attempted suicide that day of the hearing by swallowing 48 pills of Benadryl.
Following the suicide attempt, Richards was involuntarily hospitalized under the Baker Act. She was arrested April 1 at a Tampa-area hospital and has been held in custody in Broward County since then.
Sending the threats to Pozner was the “worst mistake of my life,” Richards said Wednesday.
“I don’t know where my head and my heart were that day when I made the calls, but they were not in the right place,” said Richards, who entered the courtroom in a wheelchair.
Richards pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of interstate transmission of a threat to injure. Three other counts of the same charge were dismissed by Cohn.
Palm Beach Post Data Editor Mike Stucka contributed to this story.