Man who mailed white powder to Obama, others sentenced

DENVER Fri Jan 28, 2011 6:33pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama waits to speak at the Families USA's 16th annual Health Action Conference at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama waits to speak at the Families USA's 16th annual Health Action Conference at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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DENVER (Reuters) -- A mentally ill man who admitted mailing 13 letters filled with white powder to President Barack Obama, members of Congress and Argentine consulates in Los Angeles and New York was sentenced on Friday to six years in federal prison.

Senior U.S. District Judge John Kane also ordered Jay DeVaughn, a former suburban Denver college librarian, to undergo mental health treatment for the three years he will be under court supervision after he is released from prison.

DeVaughn, who pleaded guilty in August to 13 counts of mailing threatening communications was sentenced by the judge after he apologized and said he was mentally ill.

"I don't know why I did it," said DeVaughn, who has been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. "I know that I have an illness that will be with me the rest of my life."

The U.S. Secret Service and the FBI responded to the powder sent to the White House and to congressional offices and consulates as if it were deadly anthrax until they determined it was a sugar substitute.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Holloway said DeVaughn "set out on a reign of terror that was nothing less than cruel."

"His methods of inflicting mental pain, financial damage and embarrassment were devious rather than physically violent, but they were no less depraved, anti-social and gratuitously harmful," the judge said.

A Denver-area physician, who had treated DeVaughn, and the physician's wife testified Friday they feared for their lives for more than a year because of threats DeVaughn mailed to them due his complaint about treatment he received.

"My greatest fear was that I would come home to find my family murdered," Dr. Nathan Karber, with tears in his eyes, told the judge.

The judge said federal laws for dealing with people in criminal cases who have mental illnesses, but are not legally insane, are inadequate.

Kane said he would have preferred to have sentenced DeVaughn to a longer period of court-supervised mental health monitoring, but that three years is the most the law allows.

Kane said his sentence is intended both to protect the public from DeVaughn and require him to have mental health treatment for as long as the law allows.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton)

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