Man gets probation in threats to anti-doping chief

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DENVER (AP) - A Florida man who sent an email threatening U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart after the organization stripped Lance Armstrong of his Tour de France titles was sentenced Thursday to probation and community service.

Retired physician Gerrit Keats, 72, of Clearwater, Fla. pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of violating an interstate communications law for sending Tygart an email with the subject line “Nazi tragic Tygart.” It was dated Oct. 24, 2012, two weeks after Colorado Springs-based USADA released details of Armstrong’s doping violations.

The email’s six paragraphs were filled with foul language and racist innuendo. It said Tygart should be killed and his children castrated.

Keats apologized for his actions in court. In a November letter of apology to Tygart, he said he didn’t recall writing the email tirade.

“I hardly knew of Mr. Armstrong, know nothing about bike racing and personally dislike biking,” the letter said. “Why I was so upset and vehement, I have yet to truly understand.”

Keats‘ lawyer, George Tragos, said Keats sent the email while he was under the stress of caring full time for his mother-in-law, who was suffering from extreme dementia.

Tygart told U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson that the threats he received led him to hire private security at his home and that his children once had to run inside while playing soccer when a suspicious car approached their house. He also said USADA staffers were also affected, and shouldn’t have to worry about things like who might be watching them get into their cars.

“This is not the America we work hard for and cherish. It is supposed to be different than this; and, if common civility does not dictate it, the federal criminal laws, as in this case, do,” Tygart said.

Tygart said Keats should be punished, even if he didn’t intend to carry out his threats, because of the damage they caused and as a warning to others who feel emboldened to make threats from behind their computer screens.

Prosecutors said Keats also sent angry emails to a state lawmaker in Wisconsin during the 2011 protests at the state Capitol and to the city manager of Sanford, Fla., following the firing of the police chief for his handling of the Trayvon Martin slaying. Those emails didn’t lead to any charges.

While both the defense and prosecutors agreed to a plea deal with probation, Jackson seemed angry and considered also sentencing him to some prison time, too. He read the email in full and called Keats a racist. Eventually, he tagged on 540 hours of community service which he said would be both “punitive and constructive.” At the end of the hearing, he walked across the courtroom and shook Tygart’s hand.

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