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Woman sentenced for threats to Fla. schools

Associated Press / July 15, 2011

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A woman was sentenced yesterday to two years in federal prison for threatening gun violence last year against one of the nation’s largest school systems, triggering a massive lockdown affecting more than a quarter-million students.

US District Judge K. Michael Moore imposed a harsher sentence than recommended under federal guidelines for 48-year-old Ellisa Martinez because of the scale of the disruption.

Moore said Martinez’s threatening e-mail and phone call to conservative radio talk show host Joyce Kaufman was aimed at causing “maximum havoc’’ in Broward County schools - the nation’s sixth-largest district.

“It is certainly more serious than a threat communicated to a single individual,’’ Moore said.

Martinez pleaded guilty in May to making the threats to Kaufman, after reading online that Kaufman was offered the job of chief of staff to Representative Allen West of Florida.

Kaufman opted not to take the position to avoid political fallout for West, a Republican, Tea Party movement favorite, and ardent gun rights supporter.

Kaufman became controversial last year for making politically charged comments many people considered incendiary, including remarks at a Tea Party rally in July 2010 that “if ballots don’t work, bullets will. You need to be prepared to fight tyranny.’’

The threats by phone and e-mail on Nov. 10 caused officials to order about 275,000 students locked down for several hours in 300 public, private, and charter schools.

Tens of thousands of dollars in overtime and other expenses were incurred by numerous police agencies and the FBI, said prosecutor Michael Walleisa.

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