Louise Mensch's internet 'troll' Frank Zimmerman avoids jail

 

An internet "troll" who sent a threatening email to a Conservative MP was banned today from contacting a host of celebrities - including Lord Sugar.

Frank Zimmerman escaped jail by a whisker when a district judge suspended a 26-week prison sentence for two years after he sent an offensive email to Corby MP Louise Mensch.

The bearded 60-year-old, who was taken to court by police today after being arrested for failing to attend his sentencing last week, was given the suspended sentence, ordered to pay costs and made subject of a restraining order.

The order - until further notice - bans the agoraphobic from contacting a string of well-known people.

The list includes Mrs Mensch, her businessman husband Peter, and Mrs Mensch's ex-husband, property developer Anthony LoCicero.

Lord Sugar, the Amstrad businessman and star of hit TV Show The Apprentice, was named on the restraining order, as was Terence Blacker, a columnist with the Independent newspaper and Zimmerman's former neighbour in London.

Also listed was General Sir Mike Jackson - once head of the British Army - and David Petraeus, former US Army commander in Iraq and Afghanistan and now director of the CIA.

A previous hearing heard how Zimmerman had last year targeted the outspoken Mrs Mensch, telling her to stop using the social networking site Twitter or face the consequences.

The defendant, who lives in Gloucester, told Mrs Mensch 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, 2011, 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.

The case against Zimmerman, of Spinney Road, Barnwood, Gloucester, had been proven in his absence after he failed to attend court - blaming his agoraphobia and depression.

He was supposed to have been sentenced at Cheltenham Magistrates' Court last week but failed to attend.

Police arrested him this morning for breach of bail, an offence he admitted once he was brought to court.

Zimmerman, who is extremely well spoken, wore a dark blue coat and glasses for today's short hearing.

The last time he had faced District Judge Martin Brown he had appeared via video link from a side room but today he was in the dock of court room one surrounded by two guards, having been brought up in handcuffs from the cells.

Zimmerman does not accept his guilt and blamed hackers for sending the email from his IP address.

At a previous hearing he said he had received correspondence from broadband supplier Virgin Media stating his computer had been hacked but has, so far, failed to produce the letter to the court.

Kirsty Gordon-Cleaver, defending, said her client was maintaining his innocence.

"Mr Zimmerman wants the court to know that he is considering an appeal," she said.

"He never will contact the people on the restraining order and it does not cause him any problems.

"He does, however, uphold his innocence in respect of this."

Passing sentence, the district judge told Zimmerman that he had committed a very serious crime.

"I have heard about the allegations and in my view they went beyond mere mischief," he said.

"These were ugly, unpleasant and serious remarks to the complainant by email. Quite understandably they caused her great concern.

"They cross the custody threshold because of the seriousness.

"Because of your age and because of your conditions and I accept that you have certain problems, although I do not accept they are as severe as you make out, I am prepared to suspend the sentence."

As part of the suspended sentence, Zimmerman is banned from contacting Mrs Mensch.

On hearing that, the defendant replied: "There are no problems with that happening. You have my word."

The district judge continued: "If you do, you will be in breach of that suspended sentence and you will give the court no alternative but to implement it.

"If you commit any further offences, that will also trigger the activation of that suspended sentence."

District Judge Brown told Zimmerman that if he breached the restraining order, he could be jailed for up to five years.

The defendant was also given a four-week sentence for the bail offence, which runs concurrently to the 26-week sentence, and ordered to pay £300 prosecution costs.

The district judge said he had decided against banning Zimmerman from using a computer.

"It had been my intention to prohibit him from using a computer and I accept the human rights angle and I accept the problems of policing that," he said.

Before Zimmerman was released, he asked the judge: "May I ask how I am able to get home? I have no money."

The judge said he did not have any duty to get him home and added: "You have had plenty of time to organise your finances."

As he left the dock, Zimmerman said: "I thank you for your time."

Previously, Zimmerman told the court that he does not have enough money to even eat.

"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."

Mrs Mensch took to Twitter to praise the police and the House of Commons authorities.

"Now finally free to talk about this," she wrote.

"I want to thank Det Sgt Iggy Azad & all at House of Commons & Northants Police.

"Other women besides myself were targeted by this man; and police forces (not knowing who was behind threats) were forced to devote resources.

"Sentence seems proportionate and just. I hope it will deter others from this kind of abuse and bullying."

PA

News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
news Sprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Oxegen in Ireland has been axed as promoters decide it is 'no longer viable'
arts + ents Promoters have axed the event as it is 'no longer viable in current form'
News
The troubled star is set to give fans the biggest insight into her life away from the headlines
people Star made the announcement during the final episode of the programme, entitled Lindsay
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players