The sentence also focused heavily on conduct Vernot was not charged with, including messages he sent on the CaringBridge networking site to two children with potentially terminal illnesses.
Diamond said Vernot "intended to inflict severe distress" on those families and Bilo, rejecting the defense's argument that Vernot's actions were partially the product of a brain injury sustained during a drug-induced blackout.
"You weren't in a fog. You weren't asleep. You weren't brain-injured, as far as you know," Diamond told Vernot before imposing sentence.
Vernot's attorney, Paul Messing, had argued that Vernot, a Pennsylvania State University graduate with a master's degree in education, had his life take a precipitous turn in 2010 when he was unable to find permanent work as a teacher.
Vernot started mixing prescription drugs and alcohol, and had periodic blackouts as a result, Messing said.
A forensic psychologist testified Tuesday that during one of those episodes, Vernot may have fallen and hit his head, causing a traumatic injury to the part of his brain that controls judgment and impulse.
Messing said that those injuries were treatable and that he was prepared to enroll Vernot in an outpatient program at the Bancroft Brain Center in Cherry Hill right away if he were released. Vernot, who pleaded guilty May 15 to making threats online, has been in custody since his arrest 18 months ago.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Levy noted that Vernot had enough judgment to hide his tracks online with a proxy server. When Delaware County investigators came to his home and accused his now-ex-wife of sending the messages to one of the ill children, who is also a relative - including a link to a potential casket and text for an obituary - Vernot was prepared to let her be arrested to save himself, Levy said.
The mother of Vernot's ex-wife, Lynn Larkin, sat through the 21/2-hour sentencing and said her former son-in-law got what he deserved.
"I feel bad for him," she said. "But he put us through hell."
Larkin questioned why Vernot's comments on CaringBridge, in which he also threatened to sexually assault another relative, did not lead to criminal charges but his threats against Bilo did.
Bilo was not in court and was unavailable for comment.
Messing declined to say whether he would appeal Vernot's sentence.
Contact Tricia L. Nadolny at 1-267-746-0207 or email@example.com.