NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A former butler was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison for trying to extort millions of dollars from philanthropist Anne H. Bass, who was injected with what masked intruders claimed was a deadly virus during a night of terror in 2007.
Emanuel Nicolescu, who was convicted in March of attempted extortion, insisted at his sentencing hearing that he had no role in the ordeal suffered by Bass and her companion at her western Connecticut estate.
"I am sorry for what they went through but I didn't do it," said Nicolescu, who paused to fight back tears as he spoke at length in federal court in New Haven.
Authorities said the masked men injected Bass and her partner, Julian Lethbridge, and refused to provide an antidote unless they turned over $8.5 million. The injected substance turned out to be harmless.
Alex Hernandez, an attorney for the victims, said the crime was profound and long-lasting.
"The perpetrators executed this crime with military precision and left no doubt about their intention. The terror they inflicted was real and was clearly intended to be perceived as such. Anne and Julian believed that each moment could well be their last."
Nicolescu is the only person who has been arrested for the crime at the estate in Kent, a scenic rural town of about 3,000 residents near New York. He had been fired by Bass for wrecking a car about a year before the crime on April 15, 2007.
Bass, the former wife of Texas billionaire Sid Bass, testified during the trial that she heard "war cries" from men dressed in black who threw her to the floor, tied her up and talked about whether to kidnap her 3-year-old grandson.
She said she told the men the boy would be terrified to see them dressed in black.
"I spent a lot of time thinking about my children and how horrible it was going to be for them because I was sure I was going to die," said Bass, whose grandson was unharmed.
Prosecutors said Nicolescu's DNA was found in a Jeep stolen from the property during the home invasion.
Bass also has homes in New York City and Fort Worth, Texas.
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