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A Florida inmate has pleaded guilty to charges of mailing threatening letters to public officials, including the clerk of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court, and President Bush and his family. Federal prosecutors in Atlanta said that letters from Anthony Scott Simboli, who is serving time in Clearwater, Fla., for theft and forgery, contained a white powder that authorities said was purported to be anthrax but later was identified as detergent. Simboli put his name, inmate number and return address on the letters, which threatened Judges Edward E. Carnes and Frank M. Hull, President Bush and his family, and unspecified Supreme Court justices. The first letter was discovered at the 11th Circuit in December when a scanning machine in the court’s in-house mail-sorting facility opened one and detergent spilled out. A hazardous materials team came to collect the letter and deal with any potential threat. Two subsequent detergent-laced threats were recovered at mail-handling facilities near Washington. Simboli’s threatening letters followed a failed pro se appeal to overturn his eight-year Florida sentence for grand theft and burglary, according to court records. He filed the appeal while he was incarcerated in a Florida prison housing inmates who require psychiatric treatment. In 2001 Carnes denied both Simboli’s certificate of appealability and his motion seeking permission to waive all court costs associated with the appeal, according to court records. Prosecutors said that Simboli also was attempting to help his brother, an inmate at another Florida prison, with an appeal of a life sentence for carjacking and robbery. Both Carnes and Hull were on the 11th Circuit panel that in 2002 dismissed Robert Francis Simboli’s appeal, according to court records. THREATS TO THE 11TH CIRCUIT Threats by mail have been a particular concern at the 11th Circuit. On Dec. 16, 1989, Judge Robert S. Vance was killed and his wife seriously injured when a package bomb exploded after being delivered to their suburban home in Birmingham, Ala. Two days later a second bomb killed Savannah, Ga., attorney Robert E. Robinson. That same day, federal law enforcement agents intercepted a third bomb at the 11th Circuit’s Atlanta complex. On Dec. 19, 1989, a fourth bomb was intercepted at the Jacksonville, Fla., office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Walter Leroy Moody, who previously had filed unsuccessful pro se appeals at the 11th Circuit, eventually was convicted and sentenced to seven life sentences for the murders. LETTERS FROM PRISON Simboli’s plea agreement for sending the threatening letters includes a 10-year sentence in federal prison, the maximum term for the offense. The agreement does not prohibit Simboli from mailing letters to public officials or to state and federal courts. A spokesman for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Mac McMullin, said that because Simboli’s letters to the 11th Circuit, the Supreme Court and the president were considered privileged correspondence, the letters were not opened before the jail forwarded them to the U.S. Postal Service to mail. “We don’t search outgoing mail that has official correspondence,” McMullin explained, referring to the department’s written mail policy. As a result, he said, “it’s clear how something like that could occur.” The policy states that “under no circumstance” are sheriff’s staff members to read privileged communications from inmates, including correspondence to lawyers, the courts and public officials. If privileged mail is opened, it must be in the inmate’s presence and only to confirm the privileged status. The policy also states that outgoing privileged correspondence shall be mailed without charge to the inmate. Neither 11th Circuit Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson nor court executive Norman E. Zoller could be reached to discuss the plea agreement and court security. In February, while under investigation for mailing the letters to the 11th Circuit and the Supreme Court, Simboli mailed the third letter from the Pinellas County jail to “George W., 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington D.C.” It contained detergent as well as graphic threats against the president, the first lady and one of their twin daughters, court records said.

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