California appeals court upholds anthrax hoax conviction

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld the conviction of a California man who started an anthrax hoax in 2008.

Marc McMain Keyser sent approximately 120 packages of sugar labeled as anthrax to businesses, politicians and media outlets along with a CD that contained excerpts from his book, "Anthrax: Shock and Awe Terror." In September 2009, Keyser was convicted by a federal jury for mailing the packages to a Starbucks store in Sacramento, a McDonald's restaurant in Sacramento and the office of a California congressman, Reuters reports.

Keyser's appeal said that by showing the vulnerability of the country to an anthrax attack, his mailings counted as political speech under the First Amendment.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco unanimously disagreed with the appeal.

"A reasonable sender would foresee that recipients would understand the mailings to be threats to injure them," Circuit Judge Richard Clifton said, according to Reuters.

The court said that Keyser's initial sentencing of 4.25 years in prison did not consider the government's cost to respond to other mailings Keyser was not convicted of. The appeals court ordered the trial court to re-sentence him.

John Balazs, Keyser's lawyer, said that they were disappointed with the decision and will review the next action to take.

Keyser is currently incarcerated in a low-security prison in Lompoc, Calif., Reuters reports.