Woman who caused school lockdown in Broward County sentenced

FORT LAUDERDALE--The Tampa-area woman whose sent a menacing email referencing a plot to blow up a Broward school was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison followed by three years probation.

The message delivered to a South Florida radio station from billxyz@live.com caused authorities to lock down classrooms countywide for hours last November.

No one was hurt but the event disrupted lessons and created needless panic and worry for parents and officials.

Ellisa Martinez, a 48-year-old divorced mother from New Port Richey, pleaded guilty in May to one count of communicating a threat through interstate commerce.

Martinez was sentenced by U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore and could have been sent to prison for up to five years.

Martinez, a former Los Angeles teacher, has no prior convictions. Her court-appointed lawyer asked that she be sentenced to 14 months: about eight months already served and six months home confinement, followed by three years probation.

She has been in custody, without bond, since her arrest in early December.

Her path to prison began soon after she sent the disturbing email, in the wee hours of the morning Nov. 10th, to Joyce Kaufman, a conservative talk show host at WFTL, AM 850.

In it, Martinez hinted at blowing up a government building, "maybe even a school."

Martinez also called the Pompano beach station later that morning warning that her bi-polar husband, a Billy Johnson, was going to shoot up a school in Pembroke Pines. (Martinez is divorced and her former husband was not involved in the incident.)

Alarmed, the radio station alerted authorities.

That prompted Broward school administrators to call a "Code Red" and bolt the doors to the schools countywide while local authorities and the FBI's domestic terrorism unit investigated whether the threat was real.

Security guards and police officers were posted at every public and charter school in the county. Pembroke Pines shut down City Hall.

Samuel Randall, Martinez's court-appointed lawyer, said in May that Martinez did not intend to carry out her threat,

Instead, he said she was only attempting to challenge Kaufman's much-publicized and controversial rhetoric in support of the Second Amendment, which Martinez felt could incite violence.

Before the 2010 Congressional race, in which Kaufman backed the successful Tea Party candidate Allen West, the conservative commentator urged people to toss out incumbents at the voting booth, saying "The most important thing the founding fathers did to ensure my First Amendment rights was they gave me a Second Amendment. And if ballots don't work, bullets will."

Martinez's email, in an exaggerated and mocking fashion, appeared to support Kaufman's stance, but her lawyer said it was meant as sarcasm.

"I know that you know one election is not enough to take our country back from illegal aliens, jews, muslims, and illuminati who are running the show," Martinez wrote. "I am so glad you support people who think like me. I'm planning something big around a government building here in Broward County, maybe a post office, maybe even a school, I'm going to walk in and teach all the government hacks working there what the 2nd amendment is all about. Can I count on your help?...we'll end this year of 2010 in a blaze of glory for sure."

Martinez's email to Kaufman also gave a nod to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, reading: "what does sarah say, don't retreat, reload! let's make headlines girl!"

Police immediately traced the email to an IP address belonging to Martinez and the call to Martinez's cell phone.

When confronted the same day, Martinez told an FBI agent that she had lost her cell phone in a restaurant bathroom.

While authorities worked to obtain a search warrant for her computer, Martinez fled to California, where she checked into the UCLA Medical Center under an assumed name.

At one point, Martinez's lawyers indicated in a court filing that they would pursue an insanity defense, saying she suffered a head injury in a January 1997 traffic accident that left her comatose for five days.

Kaufman, the radio host, watched the Martinez sentencing at the federal courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Afterward she said, "I think the judge did the right thing."

 

Copyright © 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


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