TAMPA — For months, gun hoarder Paul Szaraz seethed inside the Citrus County jail, detained on federal charges. In calls home, he talked of hatred, anger and vengeance.
"This anger is never going to go away, never," he said. "This anger, I'm saving, believe me. I have a perfect reason for it, too."
He railed to his longtime girlfriend, Jackie Kubb, about neighbors he blamed for his arrest, calling them "human garbage" and "dirty rats."
Investigators listened and then, recently in U.S. District Court, offered up a disturbing theory about the 47-year-old Hudson tree trimmer who made no secret of his contempt for the government.
The theory: He wanted to have an FBI agent and a witness murdered, or maybe do it himself.
But was it all just bluster?
Psychologist Valerie R. McClain testified Thursday that Szaraz is delusional and constantly manic with poor impulse control. She said he views himself as a victim of a conspiracy. "He is mentally ill," she said. "Without treatment, those beliefs are going to continue and escalate."
She spoke at a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday. Szaraz pleaded guilty in July to possessing six machine guns, found at his home in March along with eight semiautomatic assault rifles, pistols, another rifle and 17,000 rounds of ammunition. With a history of felony DUI and other offenses, he can't own guns.
FBI Special Agent Ronald Monaco testified that Szaraz offered a fellow inmate $10,000 and part of his tree-trimming business to kill two people he blamed for his arrest.
It was enough to make the U.S. Attorney's Office try to rescind a couple of the proposed deals in his plea agreement.
Federal prosecutor Donald Hansen petitioned Merryday last week to give Szaraz the maximum penalty, 10 years, because of the quantity of weapons found.
In jail calls, Szaraz still claimed a right to bear arms.
That wasn't all he claimed.
He said the government was going to kick in doors and drag everyone to FEMA camps. Disney World was part of New World Order. Mexicans were taking over the country. The Marines were corrupted by Satanists.
"I hate this system with all my guts," he told his girlfriend. "I just hate and hate and hate and hate."
In the end, Judge Merryday gave Szaraz five years and three months, not 10 years.
He was unconvinced that Szaraz intended to have anyone killed; still he called the case "bothersome."
Szaraz was entitled to hate, if he wanted, and he was entitled to entertain an "unjustified construction of the Second Amendment," if he chose, the judge said.
His order included mental health evaluation and treatment.
Defense attorney John Trevena put on witnesses who either accepted Szaraz's rants as quirks or agreed with some of his views.
Kubb, the girlfriend, said Szaraz isn't a "prepper," a Nazi, a Ku Klux Klan member or a sovereign citizen, just a hard-working man who put family first though he lost his own family as a young boy.
Szaraz spoke, too.
"I have a big obnoxious mouth, bottom line," he said.