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May 29, 2014

Hamilton: Woman pleads guilty to hoax anthrax letters

Numerous other charges dropped in plea deal

Jasper — A Jasper woman pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts of mailing threatening hoax anthrax letters to two U.S. Senators, according to court documents filed on Friday, May 16, with the U. S. District Court in Jacksonville. Kathryn Cohen Allen, 47, Jasper faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a fine of $500,000.

U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III announced that Allen pleaded guilty to sending letters to the offices of Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson in June 2011, that also threatened their lives. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as numerous local agencies, including the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue, and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay Taylor.

Court documents state that Allen mailed nine threatening letters containing a white powdery substance postmarked on June 25, 2011 in Jasper to various state and federal government recipients, including one letter each to Rubio and Nelson, whose offices were evacuated as a result. Field and laboratory testing determined the white powdery substance was not hazardous.

The return address on the letters bore either C.B., Jasper, Fla. 32052, or M.C., Jennings, Fla., 32053. The initials reportedly are those of an African American male and White female who were victims of Allen’s harassment, which began in February, 2011 with a note being super glued to the man’s truck that accused him of sleeping with a married white woman, and also threatened harm to him and his son, according to court reports.

The harassment continued with more letters and group text messages, which were sent to a variety of people and businesses in and around Jasper that detailed the man’s comings and goings as if he was being watched. There were also numerous hang-up phone calls.

Fraudulent baby shower invitations were also sent out for the couple’s non-existent newborn, letters were sent to the school where the female victim’s children attended, a letter and doll were sent to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) stating the man was a child molester, and a fraudulent condolence letter was sent to the female victim and her husband for the death of their children, who were alive and well.

Both victims reported the harassment to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, but they were unable to identify any viable suspects.

Allen, who lived next door to the male victim at the time, admitted sending the letters in an effort to frame him because she believed he was engaged in an interracial relationship. She was implicated in the scheme when her handwriting was identified in each of the letters during the investigation. Forensic analysts also confirmed Allen’s fingerprints on one of the letters and DNA on the doll sent to DCF.

Allen then reportedly created a false Facebook page under the pseudonym Amber Smith, and befriended many Jasper citizens, speaking ill of the two victims.

Seven counts against Allen will be dismissed at her sentencing as part of the plea agreement, assuming the court accepts the agreement. A sentencing date has not yet been set, according to a recent press release from the FBI.

 

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