The sentencing of a 60-year-old British man who sent a Conservative MP a threatening email was delayed today.
A district judge said he wanted a pre-sentence report prepared by the probation service on internet troll Frank Zimmerman before he passed sentence.
He had targeted the outspoken MP for Corby, Louise Mensch, last year telling her to stop using the social networking site Twitter or face the consequences.
The agoraphobic, who 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, said: “Subject: You have been HACKED :D
“Louise Mensch, nee Bagshawe, the slut of Twitter.
“We are Anonymous and we don’t like rude c**** like you and your nouveau riche husband Peter Mensch. You have been hacked!
“We are inside your computer and all your phones, everywhere... and inside your homes.
“So get off Twitter.
“We see you are still on Twitter. We have sent a camera crew to photograph you and your kids and will post it all over the net, including Twitter. C***face.
“You now have a Sophie’s Choice. Which kid is to go? One will, count on it c***.
“Have a nice day
“From all of us at MIT 617-253-1000”
The Northamptonshire MP, 40, who has a Twitter following of 50,000, immediately called in the police and arranged security for her family.
Unbowed, she went on to tweet to followers: “Had some morons threaten my children by email. To those who sent it; get stuffed losers.”
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 court blaming his agoraphobia and depression.
Zimmerman was driven the short distance from his home in Spinney Road to Gloucester Magistrates’ Court by police today.
The bearded defendant, who wore glasses, a white t-shirt, black tracksuit bottoms and white trainers, 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.”
And referring to the tiny room he was sitting in, he added: “Here I feel secure.”
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 because he was satisfied on the evidence put before him at the last hearing and was adjourning sentence for the probation service to prepare a pre-sentence report.
“All sentencing options are going to be considered,” he said.
“I want to make it plain that a restraining order will be made. If you do not attend court on June 7 a warrant could be issued for your arrest.
“I understand from the psychiatric report there maybe one or two issues surrounding your health but I have found they do not prevent you attending court.”
Zimmerman was released on conditional bail until June 7 and told to attend Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court for sentencing.
The defendant told the court that he had no way of getting home or getting to the hearing next month.
“I have no means of getting home,” he said.
“I am not physically capable of walking and I have no money. I have no money; I simply cannot afford to eat.
“I still have a vestige of pride. I do not have enough money to eat continually for four weeks every month, so every month I don’t eat for seven days.
“It is 11 days since I had anything to eat.
“There is no way that I can afford a taxi to Cheltenham and back.”