SPRING HILL — The Spring Hill man who admitted to leaving a threatening voice mail for U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite during a drinking binge will spend more than two years in federal prison.
Erik Lawrence Pidrman, 66, was sentenced on Thursday to 27 months during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Tampa. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of threatening to assault or murder a U.S. official.
He faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, but as part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to oppose Pidrman's request for a sentence at the low end of sentencing guidelines. That would have been 13 to 19 months.
Pidrman will serve three years' probation after his release. During that time he must not drink alcohol or have any contact with Brown-Waite.
Reached by phone after the hearing, Pidrman's attorney, Ronald J. Kurpiers, II, said he was disappointed by the sentence.
Kurpiers had asked Judge Steven Merryday to work out a way to punish his client without sending him to prison because Pidrman has prostate cancer, among other health ailments including depression and osteoarthritis. He may face radiation and surgery, Kurpiers said.
He said Pidrman is an alcoholic, but he does not have a violent criminal history, and he was apologetic in court.
"Certainly we weren't minimizing what he said in the message," Kurpiers said. "I think one of the most profound things the judge said was that the statute wasn't written for a person who is sober vs. someone who is under the influence. It's pretty sad, really."
The FBI and the Hernando County Sheriff's Office used telephone records to track down Pidrman. When Pidrman was arrested at his home on April 18, he told authorities he did not remember leaving the March 25 message at Brown-Waite's Brooksville office.
The message: "Just want to let you know I have 27 people that are going to make sure that this b---- does not live to see her next term. Goodbye."
But when Pidrman heard the recording, he acknowledged to investigators that it was his voice, records show. Pidrman told agents he sometimes doesn't remember what he has done when he has had too much to drink.
He said at the time he was probably thinking other "poor bastards" in Congress who had supported health care reform had been receiving threats and that he likely thought, "Let me scare one of those righties."
Pidrman's criminal record includes arrests and convictions for driving under the influence and disorderly intoxication.
In a letter sent to Merryday in July, Brown-Waite questioned what she called Pidrman's "on the toot" defense and asked Merryday to hand down the maximum sentence.
In a statement Thursday, Brown-Waite praised Merryday's judgment.
"This is an important decision that will send the correct message about making death threats toward a federal official," Brown-Waite said.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.