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Hyde Park man who threatened to carve up interracial couple gets 7 1/2 years in federal prison; lawyer asked for leniency, said Trump is partly to blame

A federal judge today sentenced Stephen DeBerardinis to 90 months in federal prison for threatening on Jan. 6, 2021 to carve up an interracial couple and send the pieces to their families - the sentence recommended by prosecutors.

That means DeBerardinis, 48, could be out in about five years, because he has spent the last 2 1/2 years locked up in pre-trial detention at the Plymouth House of Correction as a potential risk to his victims in particular and society in general. He pleaded guilty in March to transmitting in interstate commerce threats to injure a person, tampering with a witness and victim by intimidation, threats, and corrupt persuasion and tampering with a witness and victim by harassment.

Once he's released, he will be on probation for three years, US District Court Judge Alison Burroughs ruled. While on probation, he will be barred from contact with both his victims and from this reporter - for less-than-dismememberment e-mail threats he made in response to an article in September, 2021 about a "Back the Blue" rally outside the West Roxbury police station that included two photos of him.

In a sentencing memorandum, Assistant US Attorney Torey Cummings described what DeBerardinis did on the evening of Jan. 6, which ultimately led to his arrest a few months later:

On the evening of January 6, 2021, DeBerardinis saw a photo on Facebook of a happily engaged couple and decided to send them hate-filled threats of physical and sexual violence, even though he had never met them. Instead of congratulating them on their engagement, he sent them a message calling them "niggers," and used other racial language and expletives to harass and offend the victims, specifically because they were an interracial couple. Id. When the Victims responded by telling DeBerardinis that they were going to report him to law enforcement, he elevated his language to threats, sending the Victims a picture of brass knuckles with the words "snitches get stitches" around it; telling them, inter alia, that he "burn[s] niggers alive;" and threatening to rape and kill them, cut off their body parts, and mail the body parts to their families. The language the defendant used makes it clear that the defendant intentionally selected these Victims to threaten and obstruct because of their race – because he saw a photo showing that they were in an interracial relationship. ...

When the Victims received DeBerardinis's threats, they were afraid, and they had good reason to be. Hundreds of people had attacked the nation's Capitol just hours before, some displaying overt signs and statements of racism, so they were already feeling anxious and unsettled. And DeBerardinis was brazen with his threats – he used what appeared to be (and turned out to be) his own Facebook account to send the threats in his real name. The Victims could search the internet and easily learn that DeBerardinis lived in the Boston area, only a short distance from where they were living at the time. He hadn't threatened to burn, rape, and kill them from across the world; in fact he was just a few miles away.

Cummings also described DeBerardinis's record:

Defendant Stephen DeBerardinis has spent 24 years committing crimes and receiving consequences. When he committed the instant crimes, he already had over 100 entries on his criminal record and had served multiple sentences of incarceration. Yet he still decided to harass and threaten a white woman and a Black man with racist epithets and horrifying physical and sexual violence, simply because they were in an interracial relationship and had announced their engagement to be married. It is time to stop this defendant from inflicting further violence on members of this community. Given that prior criminal consequences, including jail sentences, have not deterred this defendant from his ongoing and relentless criminal behavior, this Court must impose a significant punishment. ...

The defendant's extensive criminal record includes prior state convictions for threats, intimidation, false reports of a crime, impersonation, larceny, among many other crimes. He was convicted of many of these offenses multiple times. Prior consequences for his criminal behavior appear to have had no deterrent effect. The defendant has also demonstrated a "repeated failure to respect legal authority", particularly given that he previously violated his terms of probation approximately 28 times. ...

Individuals who feared the defendant enough to seek restraining orders against him include his mother, his daughter, and multiple ex-girlfriends.

The two-and-a-half years since these federal charges were filed is the longest period of time the defendant has ever gone without being arrested since 1997, when he was 21 years old. And the defendant was likely only able to avoid committing crimes and being arrested for the last two-and-a-half years because he has been in jail.

Cummings added:

When the FBI arrested DeBerardinis on these charges, the FBI found in his home over 70 knives, 22 brass knuckles, swords, bullets, black powder for guns, stun guns, rifles, and a number of other weapons.

Besides punishing DeBerardinis, Burroughs needs to send a message, she wrote:

A significant sentence in this case is necessary to deter the criminal conduct of others, that is, to deter those who might otherwise be inclined to send racially charged threats to members of this community. In the internet age, people can level serious threats of violence with the click of a button. It is beyond question that the use of the n-word is highly offensive and demeaning, evoking a history of racial violence, brutality, and subordination. This word is perhaps the most offensive and inflammatory racial slur in the English language and its use in this context can only be expressive of racial hatred and bigotry. DeBerardinis's racially motivated acts of hatred and violence in this case are representative of the type of intolerant and racist attitudes that belong to a long-forgotten era. This Court is in the position to send a loud and clear message that racist hate and violence is repulsive, unacceptable in our community, and deserving of punishment.

DeBerardinis's attorney, Mark Shea, however, called for a sentence of just 48 months, in part because of his background - he grew up abused by his stepfather and suffers from mental-health issues and alcoholism, in part because he is making a sincere effort to get over and make up for his behavior. But, Shea continued, DeBerardinis is a victim of Trump-fed paranoia:

At issue is the appropriate sentence for a non-violent racist act by a long-term mentally ill individual. There is no disputing that Stephen DeBerardinis broke the law and threatened harm against a couple who deserved nothing but support and well wishes. However, our repugnance at the action should not lead us to ignore the context. This occurred on January 6, 2021, a day upon which many other regrettable acts occurred. Our overtly hateful and racist president, Donald Trump was inciting his followers on this very day. This was after years of normalizing hate. Racists were welcomed and even celebrated by our president. Neo-Nazis could be "very fine people." It is not surprising that a drunk, mentally ill white man sitting alone in his room would believe his views were now normalized. Was he wrong? At the time of sentencing, Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for President. One week after he announced his candidacy in 2022, he met with supporters the DOJ has labeled white supremacists.

The Government may argue this is not relevant. However, one cannot remove a crime from its time. One cannot turn a blind eye to the intended influences that the powerful visited on the weak. A famous Massachusetts political consultant once said, "we put all the haters in one pot, and let it boil." This unfortunately viable political strategy catches up many victims. In this case the Defendant and the victims.

Shea continued that merely threatening to carve up people is hardly the same as actually trying to do it:

It is true that people cannot be allowed to sit online and sow fear in others, and the defendant does not dispute the need for punishment. However, when fashioning punishment for a relatively new scourge it is important not to overreact. The clampdown on crack serves as a good example: no one denies that crack was a serious problem that authorities needed to deal with, however, the response led to injustice and a failure to look at individuals. Similarly, cyber criminals are a problem the authorities are seeking to deal with. However, we must not lose sight of the individual. Contrary to initial impressions, Stephen DeBerardinis is in many ways typical of defendants who come before this Court. Like many, he was physically, verbally and sexually abused by a family member as a child. Like many he suffers from alcoholism. Like many, he has had multiple psychiatric hospitalizations, and arrests. He is someone who is in desperate need of support if he is to lead a full and productive life. Neither his violation of the law, nor his offensive views, change the fact that he is a fellow human being deserving of sympathy who can get on a better path forward with the appropriate help.

He gravitated to hateful groups on the Internet for a sense of belonging, and to avoid his real world problems, and crossed the line into criminal behavior when he participated in making an on-line threat, specifically, sending threatening and racist messages on Facebook Messenger. Crucially, there is no evidence he (1) took any tangible steps to carry 3 out the threat; or (2) engaged in any related acts of violence. This is so even though approximately 8 months elapsed between the time the threat was first communicated and Mr. DeBerardinis' arrest.

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Comments

I’m noticing the Trumpies in my neck of the woods going full offense over the past week. I love the MAGA dog ate my homework excuse here. I hope he suffers.

I guess as the Long Hot Summer proceeds we can expect more scumbagness.

Be brave. The day that pig leaves this earth we will be all better.

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spot a criminal.

A Google image search ought to refresh some memories about this guy & his crazyeyes.

In other news I wonder how Mark Sahady is doing? Haven’t heard about his case in a while.

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oh boy I did just do that.. image search of that name.

Ever meet people who just look crazy? yeah.. that's this guy. He looks like he's a total fruitcake.

Lock'em Up.

1) Adam, I'm sorry you had to deal with emails from this guy. It can't have been fun.

2) Someone with *100 criminal charges* shows up at a 'Back the Blue' rally? That's just wild to me. That's like a blade of grass chipping in some money for a bigger lawnmower.

3) "Both my mother and my daughter have taken restraining orders out on me, and 99.8% of my home city think I'm human garbage. Am I so out of touch? No. It's the Woke who are wrong."

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He is currently scheduled to go to trial Aug. 12.

He's managed to get several delays because he keeps firing his lawyer and getting a new one (he's on his fourth or fifth, I think, I could check, but to be honest, I just don't care). He's out on personal recognizance, and he's now free to move about the Commonwealth (originally, he was banned from the Common and the area around the State House), so it's not like he's staring at concrete walls all day.

Party of personal responsibility, eh?

Guy came in to the bar tonight wearing a Trump shirt and hat. He bought an obscene amount of pull tabs (bar-sponsored lottery tickets popular in Vermont dives, for the uninitiated)

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There were two places that sold those - a place just outside of downtown Waltham on Main Street and a restaurant right on the Cambridge-Watertown line. I didn't win much, but they were pretty popular.

Duke: I know a life of crime has led me to this sorry fate, and yet, I blame Trump. Trump made me what I am.
Otto: That's bullshit. You're a white suburban punk just like me.
Duke: Yeah, but it still hurts.

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Don't ruin that movie for me

They don't even try to hide their racism anymore, hopefully the maga ship sinks soon....

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Clear expression of intention, with the ability to carry them out.

Defense attorney played the bad hand the best he could by attempting to make the ability and means to carry out the threats more hypothetical.