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MP's internet 'troll' spared jail
An internet "troll" who sent a threatening email to a Conservative MP was banned today from contacting a host of celebrities - including Lord Sugar.
Frank Zimmerman escaped jail by a whisker when a district judge suspended a 26-week prison sentence for two years after he sent an offensive email to Corby MP Louise Mensch.
The bearded 60-year-old, who was taken to court by police on Monday after being arrested for failing to attend his sentencing last week, was given the suspended sentence, ordered to pay costs and made subject of a restraining order.
The order - until further notice - bans the agoraphobic from contacting a string of well-known people. The list includes Mrs Mensch, her businessman husband Peter, and Mrs Mensch's ex-husband, property developer Anthony LoCicero.
Lord Sugar, the Amstrad businessman and star of hit TV Show The Apprentice, was named on the restraining order, as was Terence Blacker, a columnist with the Independent newspaper and Zimmerman's former neighbour in London.
Also listed was General Sir Mike Jackson - once head of the British Army - and David Petraeus, former US Army commander in Iraq and Afghanistan and now director of the CIA.
A previous hearing heard how Zimmerman had last year targeted the outspoken Mrs Mensch, telling her to stop using the social networking site Twitter or face the consequences. The white-haired defendant, of Spinney Road, Barnwood, Gloucester, told Mrs Mensch she faced a "Sophie's Choice" - a reference to a novel in which heroine Sophie has to choose between the life of her son or daughter at a Nazi concentration camp.
The Northamptonshire MP, 40, who has a Twitter following of 50,000, immediately called in the police and arranged security for her family. Unbowed, she went on to tweet to followers: "Had some morons threaten my children by email. To those who sent it; get stuffed losers."
The offensive email was later traced to the IP address of Zimmerman's home computer. He was charged with an offence of sending by public communication network an offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing message or matter.
The case against Zimmerman, of Spinney Road, Barnwood, Gloucester, had been proven in his absence after he failed to attend court - blaming his agoraphobia and depression. He was supposed to have been sentenced at Cheltenham Magistrates' Court last week but failed to attend.