Atkinson was accused last year of sending a graphic threat to attorney Mark Zaid, who represented a CIA analyst who made allegations that fueled the investigation that led to the first impeachment of the former President Donald Trump. Atkinson sent the email in November 2019, after Trump held up Zaid’s photo and read some of the attorney’s tweets at a rally.
During the brief sentencing hearing in Bay City, Michigan, Ludington said he was impressed with the changes Atkinson has made in his life over the past year, but the “austere and brutal ”of the message he sent to Zaid could not be ignored. .
“We cannot, in this assessment, lose track of the exact communication Mr. Atkinson drafted and delivered to the victim in this set of circumstances,” said Ludington, a person appointed by former President George W. Bush.
Ludington then read aloud the message sent by Atkinson.
“All traitors must die miserable deaths. Those who represent traitors will meet the same fate, we will hunt you down and bleed you like the pigs you are. We only have time and you are running out. Keep looking over your shoulder… We’re all strangers in a crowd for you. The next move is yours.
Ludington also asked Atkinson directly about why he sent an email containing such extreme language.
“The language of this email was more than baffling. Can you explain how it came to your mind to do this? asked the judge.
“Honestly, I can’t tell you how it came to my mind to do this,” Atkinson said. “I was in a dark place,” he added, citing drug use and mental health issues.
Atkinson also apologized to Zaid, although his name was not mentioned during the hearing. “I would like to apologize to the victim and his family for the problems I may have caused him,” Atkinson said.
An Atkinson lawyer, Donald Neville, appeared to admit his client’s actions were motivated by his political views.
“He had strong political beliefs,” Neville said. “He thought, sitting behind the computer, sending that message was sort of the right thing to do.”
Neville said Atkinson made “completely stupid and horrible decisions” because of various issues in his life. The lawyer called Atkinson’s arrest a “blessing in disguise”.
Neville asked that Atkinson be sentenced to 12 months in prison, including six months of house arrest, but the judge sided with prosecutors who asked for a 12-month prison sentence. The judge also ordered Atkinson, who has been on bail since last August, be taken into custody immediately.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Vance said the email had serious real-world consequences.
“This is a serious offense which has had a tremendous impact on the victim, his family, friends and colleagues,” said Vance.
Zaid also submitted a letter to the court detailing how the threat changed his life. “I have dealt with many high-profile cases from both sides of political ideology over the nearly thirty years of practicing law, but never before have I received such a vile personal threat,” wrote Zaid, who represented POLITICO journalists in Freedom of Information. Case of act.
“It was annoying, disturbing and frankly quite scary… It was a blatant attempt at outright intimidation of the worst kind.”
Zaid also said he viewed Trump and prominent conservative figures “personally responsible for instigating the climate that led to Mr. Atkinson’s conduct.” Asked about the sentence, Zaid said he was happy to see justice served.
“I am happy to see that the rule of law has prevailed with the conviction by the court today of an individual who threatened my life because I represented a whistleblower whose legal disclosure led to impeachment President Trump. No lawyer or whistleblower should ever be subjected to this type of unacceptable behavior just for doing the right thing or their job, “Zaid said in an email to POLITICO.” I hope that this result will somehow help restore a certain level of civility in our society.