MEDFORD, Ore. – A 27-year-old Oregon man who authorities feared might have been planning a sniper attack on a high school football game at his alma mater was sentenced Thursday to serve two years in prison to assure he gets psychological treatment.
U.S. District Judge Owen Panner said he wanted to make sure Raphael E. Amoroso of Grants Pass receives the intense psychological treatment he needs to overcome his anger and unrealistic view of the world.
Marshals led Amoroso away in handcuffs to start serving his sentence immediately. As he left, Amoroso's mother waved at him and put her hand to her mouth in grief.
Panner rejected arguments from the defense that Amoroso would be better served by remaining free to continue treatment with a local psychologist.
The judge noted that back when Amoroso was a student at Grants Pass High School, he wrote a letter saying he wanted to "take a gun to school and blow away the faculty."
"And when I'm done with that, I want to blow away every student I can," Amoroso wrote.
The judge said he didn't believe Amoroso would carry out those threats.
"But the psychologist's report indicates he's got a lot of anger, and needs a couple years of help," Panner said. "I think he can get that in the penitentiary."
Prosecutors had sought a seven-year term. Panner imposed a three-year sentence with credit for the year Amoroso has spent in jail since his October 2011 arrest.
Amoroso was arrested after he approached a police officer outside Grants Pass High School a few hours after a football game.
Police said he was drunk, had been smoking marijuana, and had a loaded automatic pistol in his car, along with 200 rounds of rifle ammunition, binoculars, a camouflage jacket, and a novel about a rogue federal agent who shoots up a professional football game.
A week later, a search of the home Amoroso shared with his mother turned up seven more guns, mostly vintage military rifles, as well as sniper gear — a camouflage sniper's suit, sniper manuals, a ballistic helmet, bulletproof vest, another 2,000 rounds of rifle ammunition, and armor-piercing bullets.
When he pleaded guilty to charges of having a gun on school grounds, and being a marijuana user in possession of firearms, Amoroso denied any intention of a sniper attack.
In court, Amoroso said he would like to continue the treatment sessions he started after his release from jail in August. His employer and a neighbor both said they could not envision Amoroso making a terrorist-type attack.
Panner had released Amoroso in August after he pleaded guilty and two psychologists said he posed a low risk of violence — even though Amoroso had a juvenile conviction for shooting a pellet gun at a tour boat on the Rogue River, wounding a passenger.
But Panner became concerned after reading a report from a third psychologist who treated Amoroso weekly in the past three months. The judge postponed sentencing originally set for Monday.
Defense attorney Michael Roloff argued that things Amoroso said during treatment should not be held against him, and ordinarily would be confidential.
Psychologist Michael O'Connell testified Thursday that Amoroso has made progress getting over feelings that the federal government was to blame for his problems.
O'Connell said he was less concerned that Amoroso would initiate violence than he was that Amoroso would put himself in a situation where violence was likely to happen, like a person with poor eyesight driving without glasses.
O'Connell said Amoroso has little concern for the distress of others and has an unrealistic view of his abilities and the world around him.
Panner recommended that Amoroso be sent to a prison in West Virginia that offers a treatment program suited to his needs.
Jeff Barnard can be reached at — https://twitter.com/JeffBarnardAP