TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced a former sports gambler to three years probation Thursday for sending a string of threatening messages to Tampa Bay Rays players, which included warnings that he would “sever your neck open” and “kill your entire family.”
Benjamin Tucker Patz was also ordered to serve six months of home detention, complete mental health treatment and submit to drug testing. He will be prohibited from gambling either online or in person, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday ruled.
Patz, 24, known under the online moniker Parlay Patz, and who was reported to have boasted wins of more than $1 million, pleaded guilty in March to a single charge of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce.
Although federal agents suspected Patz sent more than 300 threatening messages to professional and college athletes and their families, a plea agreement he signed related only to messages he sent to four Rays players and a member of the Chicago White Sox after the Rays lost a home game to the Sox in July 2019.
“I’d like to apologize to the victims,” Patz said in court. “Not only the one in the plea, but all the victims.”
Standing tall and rigid in a blue suit, Patz said he was nervous. His voice shook as he spoke about his parents, who sat in the rear of the courtroom. He said he would be devastated if they received threats like the ones he sent. He acknowledged the pain his words had carried, and said he had been trying to make changes to become a better person.
“I feel like I ignored so many things for so long,” Patz said.
His attorney, David Weisbrod, described his client as a calm and meek person who was “not a keyboard monster.” He alluded to a gambling problem, and said Patz had received therapy. Since his arrest, Patz has continued to work a part-time job and has attended college while complying with the conditions of his pretrial release, which included regular drug tests.
“He has attempted to address the issues that basically formed a chaotic life,” Weisbrod said.
Judge Merryday acknowledged that Patz had suffered difficulties, but also the seriousness of his crime.
As a judge, Merryday said, he has been the target of threats from time to time. He spoke at length about one case in which threats from a defendant spurred extra security for him and his family.
“As well-protected as I was, it was still stressful,” Merryday said. He spoke of another case in which a woman was the victim in an armed bank robbery. Although she was not physically harmed, the threats she endured during the robbery caused long-term psychological trauma, the judge said.
“You just never know what series of events you’re sparking,” the judge said.
Although Patz could have received a prison sentence, the government did not ask for incarceration. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Scruggs said their main concern was that Patz receive mental health treatment and that he keep his gambling under control.
“There is no evidence that he had the intent to follow through on any of his threats,” Scruggs said.
Merryday appeared to consider the deterrent effect incarceration might have for Patz, but decided it was unnecessary. He cautioned Patz, though, that if he committed future crimes, he could gamble on a different result.