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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Red Onion Inmate Pleads Guilty, is Sentenced for Sending Threatening Letters

James M. Cox Sentenced to 50 Years in Federal Prison

Roanoke, VIRGINIA – A Red Onion inmate, who pled guilty to sending threatening letters to four district courts throughout the country and then told a federal judge at his sentencing hearing that he planned to kill the people addressed in those letters once he got out of prison, was sentenced to five decades in federal prison today, Acting United States Attorney Rick A. Mountcastle announced.


James Monroe Cox, 37, a Red Onion State Penitentiary inmate, formerly of Salem, Va., pled guilty today in District Court to five counts of mailing threatening communications. Cox was also sentenced today to serve 600 months in federal prison, 120 months on each count, to run consecutively.


According to an indictment returned in February 2016, Cox wrote a variety of letters making threats to prosecutors and judges within the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, the Eastern District of Virginia, and the Western District of Missouri. Those letters contained various threats, including to inflict serious bodily harm upon judges and prosecutors, shoot the judges and prosecutors, blow up their homes and courthouses, and blow up several businesses with heavy explosives. While Cox awaited trial on the original indictment, in June 2016, he wrote a second series of threatening letters in which he threatened a judge within the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. A superseding indictment returned in August 2016 charged Cox with two additional counts of writing threatening letters to a judge within the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia.


During his hearing today in the United States District Court, Cox, after pleading guilty but prior to being sentenced, told the Hon. Judge Michael Urbanski, that as soon as he was released from federal prison he planned to kill those people he previously threatened in his letters, his own family, and anyone else he could. Cox reiterated his plans to kill former President Bush and the Bush family, whom Cox had previously written threatening letters to and been convicted for in the Eastern District of Virginia in 2003. Cox stated that he planned to shoot and “snipe” as many people as possible. Cox also stated that he had written over 100 such letters in recent years and was surprised that he only faced five counts for writing threatening letters.


The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshal Service, and the Virginia Department of Corrections. Special Assistant United States Attorney Suzanne Kerney-Quillen, a Virginia Assistant Attorney General assigned to the Attorney General’s Major Crimes and Emerging Threats Section, prosecuted the case for the United States.


Updated February 9, 2017