In a “curve ball” move, the man who admitted to making fake bomb threats targeting schools and a business in Palm Beach County told a judge he was forced to do it after receiving threats himself.
Preston McWaters made the announcement in federal court today during a hearing on his sentencing after he pleaded guilty to six charges related to making threats.
Judge James Cohn said McWaters’ statement “belies acceptance” of responsibility. Still he did not sentence McWaters to the fullest extent. Cohn sentenced McWaters to 3.5 years in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release.
In prison, McWaters will receive treatment for mental health and alcohol abuse.
His defense attorney argued McWaters has attention deficit hyperactive disorder and Tourette Syndrome. Ana Jhones had a psychologist evaluate McWaters before the sentencing hearing.
The psychologist testified someone suffering with ADHD and Tourette Syndrome would act on impulse and in reaction to anger or stress without thinking about consequences, which might help explain why McWaters made the threats.
Court documents reveal McWaters, who lived in Georgia, was mad at a former co-worker he called his girlfriend for moving to Jupiter with another man.
McWaters then made several bomb threats under the name of his old co-worker’s current boyfriend in an attempt to frame him.
Prosecutors argued the level of planning and expertise required to pull off the threats was not simply someone acting on impulse, but someone who was aware of and trying to avoid consequences for what they were doing.
“This is the most devious crime I’ve been involved with,” said prosecutor Adam Fels, who’s worked with the US Attorney’s Office for 10 years.
Fels pointed out another twist in the case which added time to McWaters’ sentence. After McWaters pleaded guilty, Fels said the US public defender’s office received a threatening letter in the mail said to have come from Eric Mead, the same man McWaters tried to frame with the bomb hoaxes.
Investigators then found another letter in the jail they believe McWaters wrote addressed to the US probation office, also under the guise of being from Mead.
Mead did not comment on today’s news, but stuck by a previous statement he provided which said in part, “We would like to convey our heartfelt gratitude to all the people and agencies that were involved in the investigation and apprehension of Mr. McWaters. The horrors of identity theft can only be fully appreciated when you’re the one being impersonated. The past few months have been very frightening and difficult time for us.”
McWaters’s mother attended the hearing, but did not speak and had no comment afterward.
Defense attorney Ana Jhones said “I think Judge Cohn did what he thought was best. I think he struggled with the decision. I appreciate Judge Cohn’s efforts on realizing there is a mental health component. I hope Preston and his family can move on.”