TAMPA – A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a former sports player to three years probation for sending a series of threat messages to Tampa Bay Rays players, which included warnings that he would “cut your neck” and ” would kill your whole family ”.
Benjamin Tucker Patz was also sentenced to serve six months of house arrest, complete mental health treatment and submit to a drug test. He will be banned from gambling online or in person, said U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday.
Patz, 24, known by the online nickname Parlay Patz, and who is believed to have won over $ 1 million, pleaded guilty in March to a single charge of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce.
Although federal agents suspected Patz of sending more than 300 threat messages to professional and varsity athletes and their families, a plea deal he signed only affected the messages he sent to four players. of the Rays and a member of the Chicago White Sox after the Rays lost a home game. to the Sox in July 2019.
“I would like to apologize to the victims,” Patz said in court. “Not just the one in the plea, but all the victims.”
Standing tall and stiff in a blue suit, Patz said he was nervous. His voice was shaking as he spoke of his parents, who were sitting at the back of the courtroom. He said he would be devastated if they received threats like the ones he sent. He recognized the pain his words had brought and said he tried to make changes to become a better person.
“I feel like I’ve ignored so many things for so long,” Patz said.
His lawyer, David Weisbrod, described his client as a calm and gentle person who was “not a keyboard freak.” He alluded to a gambling problem and said Patz was in therapy. Since his arrest, Patz has continued to work part-time and attended university while respecting the terms of his provisional release, which included regular drug tests.
“He tried to solve the problems that essentially formed a chaotic life,” Weisbrod said.
Judge Merryday acknowledged that Patz had suffered hardship, but also the gravity of his crime.
As a judge, Merryday said, he has been the target of threats from time to time. He spoke at length about a case in which threats from an accused enhanced his safety and that of 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 of an armed robbery. Although she was not physically injured, the threats she endured during the flight caused long-term psychological trauma, the judge said.
“You never know what series of events you are triggering,” the judge said.
Although Patz could have received a prison sentence, the government did not request incarceration. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Scruggs has said their main concern is for Patz to receive mental health treatment and keep his gambling under control.
“There is no evidence that he intended to follow through on any of his threats,” Scruggs said.
Merryday appeared to consider the deterrent effect incarceration might have on Patz, but decided it wasn’t necessary. He warned Patz, however, that if he committed future crimes, he could bet on a different outcome.