A Tulsa federal judge sentenced a Connecticut man to a one-year prison term in connection with a series of death threats he sent to Police Chief Chuck Jordan and other officials following the fatal police shooting of Terence Crutcher.
U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan also ordered Jeffrey Allen Stevens, 59, of East Lyme to serve three years of post-custody supervised release.
Jordan and Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler spoke during the sentencing hearing about how Stevens’ threats had affected their lives.
“I was very concerned about this,” Jordan said, noting that the messages prompted him to change his “security measures.”
“This one act altered my life, your honor,” Jordan said.
Stevens pleaded guilty Jan. 6 to five counts of interstate communications with intent to injure.
The guilty plea carried a maximum of five years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.
Court documents reveal a history of threats allegedly made by Stevens. In 2008, he was convicted of felony first-degree threatening, and the FBI interviewed him in 2012 and 2014 for reportedly sending online threats to politicians, Fox News and the National Rifle Association.
“We take violent threats of this nature seriously,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Trent Shores said via an email statement. “Free speech is a fundamental right, but it is not without limits.”
A grand jury indicted Stevens in November on 10 counts alleging he sent threats to Tulsa justice officials, but five of those counts were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
The indictment followed an FBI investigation into a series of hostile complaints that Stevens sent via the Tulsa Police Department’s website to the department’s Internal Affairs division, according to court records. The threats, which were submitted between Sept. 19 and 22, condemned the shooting of Crutcher a few days earlier.
The complaints included threats toward Jordan, Kunzweiler, Tulsa District Judge Doug Drummond and Officer Betty Shelby, who was charged with a first-degree manslaughter after the Sept. 16 death of Crutcher. Police video that shows Crutcher walking away from Shelby with his hands up moments before he was shot.
One complaint said the “psychotic pile of s- — who MURDERED the unarmed civilian who broke down is going to be executed,” an affidavit states. Another accused Jordan of corruption and stated he “is going to be killed” for hiring a staff “full of psychotic, racist, murderous scum.”
An FBI task force tracked the complaints to Stevens’ computer in Connecticut, according to an affidavit. He was arrested on a warrant in October.
Stevens reportedly admitted to filing the complaints in an interview with an FBI agent but said he was not directly threatening anyone and blamed the confusion on drinking and poor wording.
During the sentencing hearing, Stevens apologized for his actions.
“I was shocked and embarrassed by the language,” Stevens said. “I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote those. I was angry … I have never harmed anybody in my life.”
Shores asked the judge to sentence Stevens to prison for a term within the guideline range, 46 to 57 months, noting that Stevens’ actions went beyond mere internet trolling because he actually threatened to hurt others.
“Mr. Stevens threatened to kill police officers, justice officials, and their families,” Shores said in written comments to the judge. “He even extended his fury and vitriol to include threats against children.”
Eagan granted a request for leniency by lowering the guideline sentencing range to a 12-month to 18-month prison term, noting that prosecutors had initially offered Stevens probation in a plea deal that he did not accept.
Drummond and Kunzweiler both offered victim statements.
Drummond, in a letter read by Shores, said while he knew of the potential risks associated with being a judge and former prosecutor, he was nevertheless concerned when he learned of the threats to his family.
Kunzweiler read a statement to Eagan that recounted his telling his wife and children about the threats directed at him.
“It is not easy to explain to any child that there is a man out there whom she has never met, who intends to kidnap her, torture her and then kill her because of the job her father does,” Kunzweiler said.
Following the conclusion of the hearing, Stevens asked whether he could apologize again to Jordan and Kunzweiler.
Turning from the judge to face them, Stevens began describing his family’s background in law enforcement.
Stevens then said that he sent the messages with the hope that law enforcement would provide better training for its employees, comments that prompted Jordan to walk out of the courtroom.
Outside the courtroom, Stevens walked past Kunzweiler and Jordan, prompting the district attorney to say: “Mr. Stevens, that was not an apology.”
Eagan gave Stevens until June 7 to surrender at a designated federal facility to begin serving his sentence.