ST. LOUIS • A Maplewood man who admitted placing a $1 million bounty on Craigslist for the death of any Maplewood police officer was sentenced Wednesday to six years in federal prison.
The length of the prison sentence for William Lawrence left his public defender, Michael Dwyer, “stunned,” and prompted Dwyer to ask U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson to reconsider a sentence that he called “egregiously more than necessary.”
Lawrence was enraged by the seizure of guns and marijuana after police were called to the apartment he shared with his mother, and repeatedly called and visited police before posting the ad.
Police were called because of a dispute between Lawrence and a neighbor, during which Lawrence made threats and produced one of the guns, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sirena Wissler said during Wednesday's sentencing hearing.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for ten years, but Dwyer argued that Lawrence should only receive the roughly ten months he'd already spent in jail, followed by a stint at a Salvation Army rehabilitation center.
Lawrence was attending the center when he fled to Colorado last fall, after pleading guilty to a federal murder-for-hire charge. He was found and returned to the area about three months later. Dwyer said he was spooked by the potential length of his sentence and was also motivated by underlying mental health issues.
Lawrence, who is the son of a Maplewood police officer who served briefly more than 30 years ago, suffers from bipolar disorder and depression, his mother has said.
Wissler asked for prison time, but left the length up to Jackson. She said that Lawrence had lied about the trip to Colorado, at first claiming that he heard voices telling him to go west and had walked all the way. He'd actually been given money for a bus ticket, she said.
While Jackson agreed that ten years was too much, citing his emotional and mental health issues, she said that someone could have taken Lawrence up on his offer.
“The scary thing is sometimes people take this seriously,” she said.