A federal district court judge sentenced Daniel Milzman, the former Georgetown student charged with possession of a biological toxin, to one year and a day in federal prison at a hearing Monday morning.
Additionally, Milzman was ordered to complete 400 hours of community service tutoring disadvantaged children in math and physics, a mandatory mental health treatment program and 36 months supervised released following his sentence.
Milzman, who has been jailed since late March, will be credited for the time he has already served, meaning he may be released in January.
“I want you to be able to turn the page on this horrible experience,” said Judge Ketanji Jackson, who presided over the court.
Milzman, then a sophomore in the College pursuing physics and mathematics on a pre-med track, was arrested in March for making ricin, a lethal substance, in his shared dorm room on McCarthy 6 after showing a resident assistant the bag of ricin earlier that week. Milzman was found with 123 milligrams of a white substance in his possession, with 7.7 microgram per milligram concentration, later confirmed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to be ricin.
After pleading guilty to the charge in September, Milzman entered into a binding plea agreement that would place a range on his sentence from a year and a day up to 24 months in federal incarceration. The plea also dictated that all time spent in prison up to this point would count toward his sentence.
In response to a question about the possibility of Milzman re-enrolling at Georgetown, Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh said that Milzman is not currently enrolled and that “violations of federal laws are serious violations of the Student Code of Conduct and these disciplinary matters are handled confidentially.”
Although Milzman’s offense can carry a sentence of between 30 to 37 months imprisonment, Jackson accepted the plea deal agreed upon by the defense and the prosecution, saying that his youth and mental state — as his defense centers on his manufacturing of ricin as a way to commit suicide — called for a lesser sentence.
“Mr. Milzman’s mental and emotional health may have been grounds for departure from this process,” Jackson said.
For the past seven-and-a-half months, Milzman, who was placed under rigorous suicide watch last April, has spent 23 hours a day in an isolation cell in D.C. jail, with one hour of recreation time. He is only permitted to speak to visitors in a 45-minute Facetime session once a week.
Before Jackson announced his sentence, Milzman delivered an apology to the Georgetown community, his friends and classmates, the government and anyone affected by his actions.
“I learned my lesson after my first night in jail,” Milzman said. “I assure you, I’ll never break the law again.”
U.S. District Attorney Maia Miller, representing the prosecution, called for a sentence of 24 months, the maximum sentence as agreed upon in the plea agreement, citing Milzman’s clear display of intent to produce the toxin.
“There is no doubt that the defendant set out to make lethal ricin,” Miller said.
Danny Onorato, Milzman’s defense attorney, however, stated that a sentence of a year and a day, the minimum sentence as dictated by the plea agreement, was “unquestionably” appropriate.
“This is a kid who’s made some bad choices,” Onorato said.
He also said that Milzman’s act was a cry for help and a suicide attempt, and should not have even been prosecuted.
“Guess what, Mr. Milzman,” Onorato said, addressing his client in his presentation of the defense. “You should have ingested some of the ricin, because then you wouldn’t have been prosecuted for this case.”
In Monday’s sentencing, the prosecution and defense presented arguments and evidence that have been presented to various judges many times since Milzman’s arrest in March.
The prosecution discussed how Milzman performed internet searches on how to make ricin, bought the necessary materials at a plant store in Maryland and discarded evidence in an off-campus dumpster.
“This was deliberate and thought-out and well-planned,” Miller said. “At no point did he decide to opt out.”
Miller brought into question the defense’s claim that Milzman intended to commit suicide with the ricin. Milzman wore protective gear while making the ricin and took great lengths to distance himself from the toxin during its production.
“There are number of pieces of evidence that do not support the defense’s suicide claim,” Miller said.
Additionally, Miller said, during his conversation with the RA who initially reported him, Thomas Lloyd (COL ’15), Milzman denied that he was planning to kill himself and refused the RA’s implorations that Milzman leave the ricin with him.
“The government questions whether this can be accurately described as a call for help,” Miller said.
Miller read out to the court a selection of threatening Facebook messages that Milzman had sent to another undergraduate student, including one that said that the student would be more important to the world if he were “chemically disincorporated” and his body “parts were sold” for money.
Onorato dismissed the Facebook messages as meaningless and nothing more than college kids acting stupidly on Facebook.
Because the only evidence of Milzman’s claim that he only intended to use the ricin on himself is his own statement, Miller said that the intent was ambiguous.
“It’s not clear what the defendant intended to do,” Miller said.
Onorato said that Milzman chose ricin as a means for suicide to protect the feelings of his parents, as ricin is difficult to trace post-mortum.
“Only a kid with his level of genius could figure something like that out,” he said.
He stressed that Milzman has learned his lesson through his time in jail and that any longer of a sentence would be excessive.
“It’s cruel and unusual punishment for a 19-year-old kid,” Onorato said.
The defense has 14 days to file an appeal if they choose to do so.
Hoya Staff Writr Kshithij Shrinath contributed reporting.