A South Carolina prison inmate who was sentenced to five years in federal prison last week for threatening high-ranking U.S. public officials said in court he made the threats from his state prison cell in hopes of being sent to a federal prison where his life would not be in danger.
“I was just sending these threats to get into the (federal) Bureau of Prisons,” inmate Eric Rome, 34, told U.S. Judge Kenneth Bell of North Carolina. Bell was presiding over the case because a South Carolina federal judge was among the objects of his threats.
“If I have to stay in the South Carolina Department of Corrections until 2030, I don’t think I am going to make it,” Rome told Bell in a sentencing hearing Thursday in the federal courthouse near downtown Columbia.
The five years in federal prison that Bell gave Rome will be served starting in July 2030 after Rome finishes concurrent 12-year state sentences for armed robbery-related charges.
Rome’s attorney, public defender Allen Burnside, told Bell that Rome is worried about being killed by the Bloods prison gang as well as the Aryan Brotherhood gang.
The heavily-tattooed Rome — he has tears on his face and a third drawn-on eye above and between his two biological eyes, as well as designs that cover his head and neck — was indicted last year. His tattoos include the number 666 and screaming faces.
On Thursday, Rome wore shackles and a golden-colored prison jump suit, a color denoting a high-security inmate. The colors of an inmate’s jump suit reveal an inmate’s status: green for death row inmates, tan for those on work detail, for example.
Last year, he was given a mental evaluation and found competent to stand trial.
In March, Rome pleaded guilty to threatening to kill President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and a state-based federal judge. He also threatened U.S. Supreme Court justices and the Chinese embassy, according to evidence in his case.
In making his threats, Rome did not try to conceal his identity. He had made threats on an internal prison voice mail system meant for inmate complaints and also by the U.S. mail, according to an indictment.
State Department of Corrections spokeswoman Chrysti Shain said Rome is “in our most secure housing unit at Lee Correctional Institution, and he does not have a cell mate. It is a very secure place.”
Federal prosecutor Winston Holliday told the judge that “We did reach out to the Bureau of Prisons,” but there was no mechanism to transfer someone in Rome’s position to a federal prison.
Although Rome indicated his threats were only made to get attention, Holliday told the judge the threats “should be taken seriously.”
Bell told Rome that continuing to make threats is not going to get him in federal prison any faster.
Rome indicated he might not stop making threats.
“I am hoping you would just get tired of dealing with me,” Rome told the judge.