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California man gets year in prison for sending vile messages to father of Parkland massacre victim

Letters on a fence read "MSD Strong" outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Rebecca Blackwell/AP
/
AP
Letters on a fence read "MSD Strong" outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Wednesday, July 5, 2023.

James Catalano of Fresno must also serve three years probation and undergo mental health treatment after pleading guilty to cyberstalking Fred Guttenberg.

A California property manager was sentenced to a year in federal prison for sending more than 200 vile online messages to a father of a teenage girl who died in the 2018 massacre at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

James Catalano, 62 of Fresno, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola in Miami after pleading guilty in March to cyberstalking. Prosecutors called the messages he sent Fred Guttenberg “callous and cruel.”

Guttenberg's 14-year-old daughter Jaime Guttenberg was murdered in the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting in Parkland that left 14 students and three staff members dead. Catalano also received three years probation and must undergo mental health treatment.

Catalano sent Guttenberg messages for eight months starting in December 2021 that celebrated Jaime Guttenberg's death and reveled in the wounds she suffered. He also mocked the sadness and loss Guttenberg feels and directed obscenities, slurs and disturbing insults to him and his daughter.

Catalano told investigators he was angry at Guttenberg for his outspoken advocacy for stronger gun laws since his daughter's death. He told them he believed Guttenberg was using his daughter's death “to push his political agenda” and was “trying to put (Guttenberg) in check by sending him the messages.”

“By his own admission, the defendant was motivated to stalk the victim and send him heinous messages simply because he disagreed with the victim’s political views,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Arielle Klepach wrote in court documents. “He capitalized on the victim’s grief and the horrific nature of his daughter’s death in order to silence him.”

She wrote that Catalano sent similar messages to others, but he has not been charged in those cases.

Guttenberg said Monday that the sentence “is a big deal” and sends a message to those who cyberstalk the families of shooting victims that they will be caught and punished. He said Judge Scola agreed that while none of the messages contained a direct threat, in their totality they constituted one.

Catalano's attorneys did not immediately return a call Monday seeking comment.

The former student who murdered Jaime Guttenberg and the others is serving a life sentence.

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