Sentence delay over web threat to MP

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The sentencing of a 60-year-old man who sent a Conservative MP a threatening email has been delayed.

A district judge said he wanted a pre-sentence report prepared by the probation service on Frank Zimmerman.

He had targeted the MP for Corby, Louise Mensch, last year telling her to stop using the social networking site Twitter or face the consequences.

Zimmerman, who claims to be agoraphobic and lives in a run down house in Gloucester, told Mrs Mensch that she faced a “Sophie’s Choice” – a reference to a novel in which heroine Sophie has to choose between the life of her son or daughter at a Nazi concentration camp.

The email, which was dated August 22 last year, was abusive and threatening.

The MP, 40, called in the police and arranged security for her family.

The offensive email was later traced to the IP address of Zimmerman’s home computer. He was charged with an offence of sending by public communication network an offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing message or matter.

At an earlier hearing, the case against Zimmerman had been proven in his absence after he failed to attend.

Zimmerman was driven the short distance from his home in Spinney Road to Gloucester Magistrates Court by police.

The bearded defendant did not enter the court room but instead addressed the district judge by video link from a room on the first floor of the building.

He told District Judge Martin Brown: “People make me have a panic attack.”

Charles Cronin, defending, said that Zimmerman was maintaining his innocence and blamed hackers for sending the email from his IP address.

“He has no recollection of sending the email and he says he has received a letter from Virgin Media stating his computer had been hacked and that emails had been sent from his IP address,” Mr Cronin said. “Because of this letter, which cannot be produced, he does not accept wholeheartedly or unequivocally that he committed the offence.”

Zimmerman then interrupted and told the district judge: “I cannot (accept guilt) because of what Virgin have said to me.”

The district judge said he did not intend to re-open the case and was adjourning sentence to June 7 for the probation service to prepare a pre-sentence report. Zimmerman was bailed.