Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson spoke to the media yesterday after the sentencing of Kelley Marie Ferguson. Ferguson, 20, of California, was sentenced to two years in federal prison for notes threatening to kill Americans aboard a cruise ship.

Terror hoax lands
woman in jail

The 20-year-old gets the
maximum term for her written
threats aboard a cruise ship

A 20-year-old California woman who left two notes threatening to kill all Americans on board a cruise ship bound for Hilo was ordered to spend two years in federal prison.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor denied a request yesterday by Kelley Marie Ferguson, of Laguna Hills, for a more lenient sentence and instead ordered her to the maximum term possible under federal sentencing guidelines, and three years on supervised release. Ferguson had been facing 18 to 24 months in prison.

Ferguson was vacationing with her family on board the Legend of the Seas en route from Ensenada, Mexico, when the notes were discovered in a restroom on April 22 and 23.

The threats forced the Royal Caribbean ship to cancel its Hilo stop while 120 members of the Hawaii Joint Terrorism Task Force, including 40 bomb-sniffing dogs, searched the vessel for biological, chemical, radiological and explosive weapons. More than 2,300 passengers and crew were also questioned, until it was determined the notes were a hoax.

Ferguson, who admitted to writing the notes in hopes the trip would end and she could return home to her boyfriend, later pleaded guilty to a charge of conveying false information about an attempt to cause death to passengers and employees of a mass transportation provider. Federal prosecutors here say she is the second defendant in the nation to be charged under this relatively new provision of the USA Patriot Act. The other is United Kingdom resident Richard Reid, who tried to ignite explosives in his shoes while aboard an American Airlines flight.

Federal Deputy Public Defender Loretta Faymonville had sought a lesser sentence, arguing that Ferguson did not intend to harm anyone.

"This was a young woman who was selfish and the only thing she wanted was to go home," Faymonville said. "She was pregnant, scared and didn't know what to do."

Ferguson was seven months pregnant at the time and was trying to hide it from her family. She gave birth two months later to a baby girl.

Prison, which would separate her from her nearly 3-month-old baby, isn't necessary to impress upon her the seriousness of her actions, Faymonville argued.

Ferguson declined to address the court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson had argued for the maximum, saying the defense's request for a lenient sentence shows Ferguson still "doesn't get" what occurred or the trouble she caused by her "self-centered criminal plan."

Even if the notes were a hoax, it created fear among those on board and stripped them and the public of the sense of security, safety and confidence they had about traveling during that period, Sorenson said.

The passengers suffered the indignity of being confined to their cabins as their luggage was searched, he said. Many lost out on their dream Hawaiian vacation because of her acts, Sorenson said.

Gillmor said she was particularly troubled that after the massive search, Ferguson proceeded to plant another note.

"I find this particularly reprehensible because at that point, she knew what she had done and thousands of people were inconvenienced," Gillmor said. "That kind of behavior can't be called youthful folly or naiveté," she added.

Prosecutors said the third note, which Ferguson claimed was slipped into her cabin, contained a threatening message that tried to deflect the investigation away from her.

Gillmor said she believes Ferguson is troubled and ordered her to undergo a mental evaluation and counseling. She also denied Ferguson's request to remain free until January to spend more time with her newborn and ordered her to turn herself in to a facility designated by the Bureau of Prisons on Nov. 4.

Ferguson wiped away tears as she left the courtroom with by her parents, Timothy and Debra Ferguson, and her public defender. She did not comment.

Outside the courtroom, Sorenson said he was disappointed Ferguson did not take an opportunity to stand up in court to apologize.


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