WASHINGTON – A Mount Rainier man who made bomb threats against Prince George’s County schools and directed racially harassing statements at the system’s superintendent called in sick to his scheduled sentencing Friday.
Mark Steven Hoffman was expected to get a year in prison on misdemeanor charges that he sent a harassing e-mail message to Superintendent Iris Metts, made false bomb threats and possessed child pornography.
But Hoffman failed to show up for a sentencing hearing Friday in Prince George’s Circuit Court. His attorney could only say that Hoffman had left a message Thursday complaining of a stomach bug.
“You know, it really isn’t his decision whether or not he’s going to come out of the house,” said Prince George’s Circuit Judge Maureen Lamasney, who issued a bench warrant for Hoffman’s arrest.
Hoffman’s attorney, C. Michael Walls, said he would try and contact his client and encourage him to come to court on his own.
“I can only presume that this is the flu,” Walls said. “This has been going on. . .and we’ll do our best. We’ll get him in here next week some time.”
Hoffman was arrested on Dec. 17, 1999, after Metts received two e-mail messages threatening to blow up two unspecified county schools, according to published reports. The first message included racially tinged language directed at the superintendent, who is black.
Police arrested Hoffman, who is white, at the University of Maryland, College Park, after investigators traced the e-mails to a computer terminal there. A police search of his home found the child pornography.
Hoffman, 31, pleaded guilty in October to one count each of possession of child pornography, committing a racially motivated crime and issuing a false statement or rumor regarding a bomb. Five other charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement, which called for Hoffman to get a year in prison and a two- year suspended sentence.
Prosecutor David Whitacre said Hoffman is not likely to face additional penalties for skipping his Friday sentencing.
“I believe he is going to appear in court shortly,” either on his own or under arrest, said Whitacre.
“I hope that he will not be a threat to anyone involved,” he said. “I should add that he has made every other court appearance.”
“As I’ve said before, and as the record will reflect, he’s accepted responsibility for what he did. He is truly sorry for his actions,” Walls said. “He has indicated that this kind of thing will not happen again.”
Metts – who now has a school system bodyguard – has received no further threats from Hoffman or anyone else, said school spokeswoman Athena Ware. She said Metts continues to receive protection from the unarmed guard, who drives her to and from appointments and remains on-site when she is in her office.
“The superintendent has maintained throughout this that certainly some form of disciplinary action was needed,” Ware said.
“Does she continue to feel threatened? I wouldn’t say that she does, because we’ve put measures in place to ensure her security and her safety,” Ware said.