A California man with a long history of making bogus hostage calls to women police officers on two continents was sentenced last week for a series of calls to Tufts University police officers in 2021 that sparked an hours-long room-by-room search of several dormitories, by both officers and dogs, for a supposed woman being held hostage by an ex-special services specialist with a taser.
Sammy Sultan, 50, of Hayward, CA, had earlier served a two-year sentence after being convicted in a California court in 2017 for a series of similar calls he'd made.
In her sentencing recommendation to US District Court Judge Leo Sorokin - for 24 months - Sultan's attorney acknowledged Sultan had a long problem with meth and that he sought out women police officers in particular to call with his fake crime calls because he was particularly traumatized one day when a woman police officer tazed him while he was being arrested for sometehing
But she wrote that a "restorative justice" program Sultan participated in while locked up at a federal detention facility in Rhode Island as he awaited sentencing had finally made him realize he needs to stop. She included a letter Sultan wrote to Sorokin:
Now, when I think about the climate in this country, with school shootings and mass shootings, I see the gravity of my crime very plainly. I truly never thought about this before, especially about how this would impact the victims in my case. This wasn't a consideration until I heard the victim impact statements in Restorative Justice and read more about this and then went farther in the restorative justice process. I had no idea the trauma and pain I inflicted by my actions, and the pain they may have endured because of me. I have a tough time coming to grips with what I put all these people through, as truly innocent victims that had nothing to do with the anger I was feeling. I can't imagine the fear they had sheltering in place worrying that someone might come through the door. Also the fear of the officers who had to look around the campus, worrying about the students and also worrying that they could be hurt. Also the fear for students, who are just trying to go to school. All of these people had families at home too. This never once occurred to me.
Prosecutors, though, weren't buying it. They called Sultan an ongoing threat to society and urged the judge to put Sultan away for more than three years. They noted that in his earlier case, Sultan had made hundreds of "obscene and harassing telephone calls" to law-enforcement agencies in the US, Canada and Great Britain, usually asking for a woman officer, to whom he would then say he was involved in some horrible crime - and would often play recordings of a woman screaming to add veracity. They say he resumed the calls two years after his release in 2019, culminating in eight calls he made to Tufts Police between 6:38 and 8:35 a.m. on May 28, 2021, including:
In a call commencing at or about 6:41 a.m. EDT, Sultan informed a TUPD employee that he wanted to speak to a "lady officer," said that he had entered a room on the Tufts University campus, and then said, "I have a lot of weapons;" "If the lady that comes into the room… I'm going to have to tase her;" "I'm going to go tase somebody;" "I'm gonna go tase somebody now;" and "I'm going to throw the phone away in the toilet and I'm going to tase somebody now." During the call, the sound of what appeared to be a taser being activated, and a handgun being racked or cycled, could be heard in the background. Contemporaneously with these sounds being made, Sultan claimed that the sounds were an X26 taser and a pistol.
Prosecutors said only incarceration would stop him:
Sultan's actions with respect to Tufts also sparked a significant law enforcement response and caused a serious danger to the community – all of which he intended. In his calls to TUPD, Sultan stated that he was hiding in a dorm room and gave the names of numerous buildings located on the Tufts University campus, even though he was, in fact, in California. Based on Sultan's actions, TUPD officers were seriously concerned that Sultan intended to commit violence, potentially against the unidentified female in whose dorm room Sultan claimed to be hiding. This resulted in a massive, hours-long, room-by-room search through Tufts University dormitories. It resulted in panicked phone calls by members of the Tufts University community to TUPD. By his actions, Sultan created a dangerous situation in which, fortunately, no one was harmed.
Lastly, Sultan's actions showed a marked disregard for his victims. He purposefully caused panic across the Tufts campus. As part of his overall modus operandi, he sought out female dispatchers, and his calls would frequently turn sexual in nature. At other times, he led law enforcement officers to believe that the was actively committing animal cruelty – such that the cries of the animals could be heard over the phone. That he did this over and over again indicates Sultan's clear lack of understanding – or lack of caring – for the negative, potentially traumatic impact he had on others.
In short, when it comes to making threatening and harassing phone calls, the defendant is a major repeat offender. He has made them for years, in the United States and elsewhere. No past measures have curbed his actions – with the exception of incarceration. As a result, the government believes that both incarceration and a significant period of supervised release are necessary to ensure the safety of the community and to ensure that the defendant does not continue to undertake these actions in the future.