Anthrax hoaxer to receive new sentencing hearing

A new sentencing hearing for a Memphis prisoner convicted of sending fake anthrax to a federal judge has been arranged because his previous hearing was conducted via video conference for security reasons.

Marshall DeWayne Williams was sentenced to five years in prison for admittedly sending a signed letter to U.S. District Court Judge J. Daniel Breen that contained a white powdery substance that Williams claimed was anthrax, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

The white substance in the letter tested negative for anthrax and was later determined to be artificial sweetener.

Breen ruled against Williams in one of the many petitions he filed to appeal his conviction and 109 year prison sentence. Williams is in prison for killing his stepfather with a pipe bomb hidden inside a newspaper vending machine in Mesquite, Texas, in 1984.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently upheld the conviction for sending a threatening communication by mail, but criticized the trial judge, Bernice Donald, for not having Williams physically appear in court two years ago for his sentencing hearing,the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports.

The appellate court judges dismissed the trial judge’s choice to hold the hearing via video conference despite the advice of U.S. Marshals, who said that Williams had behaved combatively and had threatened to cause a disturbance in the court.

The appeals court announced that Williams should have been given a warning before being excluded from the courtroom for the hearing. They further said defendants, with rare exceptions, have a right to be in the courtroom during sentencing.