Would-be Gates Extortionist Gets 70-Month Jail Sentence

An Illinois man who tried to extort US$5 million from Microsoft Corp. chief Bill Gates by threatening in e-mail to kill Gates, various of his family members and other company executives was sentenced Friday to 70 months in prison.

Adam Pletcher, 23, of Long Grove, Illinois, was convicted in March on four counts of sending threatening mail with intent to commit extortion, which carries a minimum penalty of 70 months in prison and a maximum of 20 years. Between March and May of last year, Pletcher sent four threatening letters to Gates.

Pletcher admitted to U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein that he sent the threatening letters to Gates, who is chairman and chief executive officer of the software giant, and apologized during the sentencing hearing on Friday. Still, the judge said she had no choice but to sentence him to the minimum prison term called for under sentencing guidelines, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Pletcher testified at his trial that he was trying to develop a novel based on the movie "Assassins," starring popular U.S. actor Sylvester Stallone. Pletcher was pretending to be an assassin trained by the U.S. Army when he sent the death threats and demands for money, according to his defense.

At the sentencing hearing Friday, Pletcher claimed he meant no harm to Gates.

"I just wanted to kick myself because I just couldn't come up with a reason I would do something like that," the AP quoted Pletcher as saying.

"Obviously, we see this entire situation as very unfortunate," Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said today. "We are grateful to all of the law enforcement agencies for their speedy response to the situation. We wish the Pletcher family the best as they deal with this situation."

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