The former butler who injected a Kent socialite with what he claimed was a lethal virus, then demanded $8.5 million for an antidote has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Before being sentenced, Emanuel Nicolescu proclaimed his innocence and asked the judge to be merciful.
"I can't believe this is happening," Nicolescu said. "It's not fair. ... There has to be a way to show the court and the world that I am not the person they portray me to be."
He also pleaded with the court to have mercy on his family, arguing that he didn’t receive a fair trial and that his prior lawyers failed him by not letting him testify.
However, a letter written by the victims that was read into the record on Friday paints a far more sinister picture, calling the invaders “cowards” during a “night of terror” in which they "believed that each moment could be their last."
The victims wrote that they hoped a long sentence would convince Nicolescu to tell more about his co-conspirators because they are scared everyday that the two other home invaders are still out there.
Nicolescu’s attorneys said the sentence should only be eight years, arguing that he didn’t cause any bodily injury and that he wasn’t the leader of the other two. But the judge rejected those arguments.
Nicolescu mother, Donia, was stone-faced throughout the sentencing and told NBC Connecticut that she "wasn't in the world today," that she "felt sick," and that her son is innocent.
The sentence will mean that Nicolescu spends 20 years in prison and will then be on supervised release for three.
Nicolescu and his attorney have 14 days to file an appeal of this sentence, which they intend to do.
At the Trial
The crime he was sentenced for happened on April 15, 2007, when Nicolescu and two others broke into Anne Bass' stately home and held her hostage for about six hours.
He had served as Bass' butler until he was fired in 2006 after using one of her vehicles for an unauthorized personal trip and crashing it.
Bass, 70, testified during the trial and said she was headed to her kitchen when she heard "war cries" and saw three men in black hoods and clothes, carrying guns and knives.
"In my memory, I just see them almost like they were in some military formation," Bass testified.
She said she pulled the kitchen door closed, but the men grabbed her and shoved her to the floor in her living room.
"I was asking them what they wanted," Bass testified. "They just told me to shut up."
Bass said she also heard them restrain her companion, Julian Lethbridge.
Then they took them to Bass' upstairs bathroom, where they held them, bound and blindfolded, for most of a six-hour ordeal.
At one point, the victims heard loud snaps and clicks.
"I thought they were about to blow the house up. I was sure we were going to die," Bass said.
Then, Bass described the injections she and Lethbridge received.
One of the captors cut the sleeve of her bathrobe, cleaned off her shoulder with an alcohol wipe and then stuck a needle into her arm, Bass said.
"It was excruciating," she said.
They said it as a lethal virus and demanded $8.5 million for an antidote.
"It all seemed really strange," said Bass. "An antidote is for poison, not a virus. It didn't make any sense."
Bass, in tears, said she spent a lot of time thinking about her two children and "how horrible this would be for them because I was sure I was going to die."
Bass also said she feared her 3-year-old grandson would also die. He was sleeping in a room nearby. "I just didn't see how anyone could survive something like that," she said.
Toward the end of the ordeal, Bass described what has become a recurring nightmare for her. She said, "I felt like someone was just staring at me with these piercing blue eyes."
The defense claimed Nicolescu had nothing to do with either planning or carrying out the crime.
They challenged Bass' testimony about seeing a suspect with blue eyes and said such details appeared nowhere in her statements to police.
Bass said she told police several times about the recollection.
Eventually, the captors drugged Bass and Lethbridge. When they slept, the captors left the estate in one of Bass' Jeeps.
When Bass woke up, she was able to free herself and Lethbridge. Her grandson was unharmed.
Prosecutors previously said DNA evidence linked Nicolescu to the stolen Jeep that Bass purchased after Nicolescu was fired from his job.
He was charged with attempted extortion and other offenses and found guilty in March.
He could have been sentenced to up to 50 years in federal prison, but he was sentenced to 20 years for extortion, 20 years for conspiracy and 10 years for possesion of a stolen vehicle,. These will be served concurrently.