MP Threat: Man Convicted

A man's been convicted of sending Corby MP Louise Mensch an e-mail saying she would have to choose which of her children would die.

The chick-lit author turned MP (right) was sent the e-mail in August 2011, shortly after the summer riots, after she had called for the police to be given the power to temporarily shut down social network sites.

She was told she faced a "Sophie's Choice" - a reference to a novel in which heroine Sophie has to choose between the life of her son and daughter at a Nazi concentration camp.

The sinister e-mail was purportedly sent from the online hacking group Anonymous, but police later arrested and charged Frank Zimmerman - an agoraphobic living in a run-down house in Gloucester.

Zimmerman, 60, from Spinney Road, Barnwood, Gloucester, was convicted in his absence on Tuesday 10 April 2012 of sending by public communication networks an offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing message or matter.

The court heard Zimmerman had failed to attend any court appearance to answer the single charge he faced or give proper instructions to his solicitor, blaming his agoraphobia and depression.

Defence solicitor Charles Cronin told Gloucester Magistrates Court that he had spoken to Zimmerman by phone and he would not be attending court and was instead going back to bed.

District Judge Martin Brown decided to go ahead with the hearing without him, and held a hearing to determine whether Zimmerman had committed the offence.

He ruled that he had.  Zimmerman is now due to be sentenced on Tuesday 8 May 2012.

Zimmerman originally made contact with Ms Mensch on Twitter using the pseudonym Tim Cavendish.

He claimed he had information about Piers Morgan and the telephone hacking scandal engulfing the News of the World, the court heard.

Mrs Mensch sent him her personal gmail email address. It was to that account that Zimmerman sent the threatening message.

The email, which was timed at 10.47pm on August 22, was sent from an account with the address of lulz.sec@hotmail.com - a reference to the hacking group Lulz Security.

Mrs Mensch was in New York with her husband recovering from an operation while her three children were with their father, her ex-husband, in the UK.

The MP took the threats seriously and immediately contacted the police.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Mrs Mensch spoke of her terror at receiving the threat.

"I was terrified on behalf of my children. I was in New York with my husband recovering from an operation and my children were with their father and to receive a threat like this made me very upset,'' she said.

"I was 3,000 miles away from my children and I was worried for their safety and the safety of my ex-husband. I felt powerless to do anything.''

Mrs Mensch said that after receiving the email she was sent a Twitter message from someone called "Robert Redford".

"He made reference to the contents of the email and that one of my children would die and it made me believe he was responsible,'' she said.

The judge said he had decided not to issue an immediate warrant for Zimmerman's arrest without bail and was releasing him on unconditional bail until he is sentenced on May 8.

He told Mr Hart: "If he does not attend on that date, and unless circumstances change, he must understand I am being left with very little alternative but to issue a warrant.''

Following the judge's ruling, Mr Hart said the Crown would be applying at the sentencing hearing for a restraining order against Zimmerman, preventing him contacting ``other high-profile individuals''.

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