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Connecticut man behind bomb, anthrax hoaxes sentenced to 9 years in federal prison

A gavel. (Dreamstime/TNS)

A New Haven man with a history of making fake threats has been sentenced to more than nine years in federal prison for a series of bomb and anthrax hoaxes that prompted evacuations and major police responses in Connecticut and Vermont more than two years ago.

Gary Joseph Gravelle, 53, pleaded guilty to eight federal charges last year and was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Kari A. Dooley in Bridgeport to 110 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Over two days in September 2018, Gravelle was behind more than a dozen bomb, anthrax and death threats targeting then-President Donald Trump, a Vermont airport, federal court and prison officials in Connecticut, the New Haven NAACP and religious institutions across the state, court records show.

Although the threatened “high-yield C4” did not exist, the supposed anthrax was baking soda and white supremacist snipers were not actually real, the threats caused real-life turmoil across the state over those two days as massive police responses descended on the targeted locations, prosecutors said. Entire facilities were evacuated and some people even underwent decontamination procedures because of possible exposure to the chemical agent.

The threats follow another series of threatening letters and hoax anthrax attacks Gravelle perpetrated in 2010, for which he was arrested and served more than five years in prison, according to court documents.

Gravelle had only two months left of his three-year supervised release from that prior conviction in September 2018 — court records indicate he had been “working well” with his probation officer and received mental health treatment — when he issued the new slew of hoax threats.

Prosecutors acknowledged Gravelle’s mental health situation during sentencing but noted that the victims of his hoaxes could not have known that when they reacted to his threats, court records show.

“When the defendant threatened to hunt and annihilate African Americans and deploy anthrax, the NAACP rightfully took the threat seriously — again, they did not know about the defendant’s circumstances; they only knew the heinous threats that he had sent,” prosecutors wrote. “Many of the letters had dark smears like blood with handprints … Fortunately, the defendant did not act out his threats. Unfortunately, like his conduct in 2010, his letters and emails disrupted the daily lives of many and no doubt seriously frightened their recipients.”

Gravelle has an extensive criminal history dating back to his early 20s, when he sent his first threatening letter to local law enforcement, in addition to his mental health diagnoses, court records show. Prosecutors said in court his conduct since his arrest “shows real promise,” however, noting he has not since continued to send threatening letters, as he did after his 2010 arrest.

He has been detained since his arrest on Sept. 8, 2018, and pleaded guilty in January 2020 to seven total federal charges, including making threats against the president and admitting he had failed to comply with the conditions of his supervised release.


(c) 2021 The Hartford Courant

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