LOS ANGELES – A British national was sentenced today to 37 months in federal prison for making a series of graphic online threats to harm, rape and kill.
Samuel Trelawney Hughes, 33, of Pasadena, was sentenced by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who described his conduct as “horrendous.” Hughes pleaded guilty in October 2020 to one count of stalking, one count of witness tampering and one count of making threats by interstate communication.
From May 2019 to June 2020, Hughes stalked and sent anonymous threatening communications to multiple victims, according to court documents. For example, in October 2019, after one victim reported prior threats from Hughes to law enforcement authorities, Hughes sent the victim an email stating in part: “someone I can guarantee will come out and first bash you[r] head in, rape you slash your throat and burn your car and house.”
Hughes’ conduct often followed a pattern. He would meet a victim – usually a woman – at a networking event or through his employment. After the event or after having been employed for a period, he would communicate with the victim from an email or social media account, seeking further social interaction with the victim or inviting the victim to meet him at a future date in a one-on-one setting. When the victim would not reciprocate [Hughes’] desire for further social interaction and would indicate that she or he no longer wished to interact with him, he would then send anonymous threats to the victim, often from anonymous online accounts he used and created to disguise his identity.
He sent the threatening communications via numerous email and social media accounts, as well as through the U.S. mail. The messages sent to the victims were direct, graphic and disturbing in nature, and they contained threats to injure, rape and kill victims.
After being contacted by both federal and state law enforcement officers on multiple occasions regarding the threatening communications, Hughes continued to send electronic communications and letters threatening to injure, rape and kill victims who had reported his threats to law enforcement. In his communications to some victims, Hughes threatened that contacting the police would lead to the injury or death of the victim or the victims’ family members.
“[Hughes] used his computer skills to terrorize these victims and their families with harassment and death threats from anonymized accounts,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “His use of anonymizing techniques and planning allowed him to avoid identification – and punishment – for months while he continued his online harassment campaigns. [Hughes’] conduct traumatized the victims, putting many in fear for their lives and the lives of family members. Some feared going to work or even leaving their homes.”
The FBI investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Lauren Restrepo of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crime Section prosecuted this case.