Alabaster man asks for exile rather than prison sentence

Published 3:48 pm Thursday, January 8, 2015

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

PIERRE, S.D. – A 37-year-old Alabaster man received 70 months tacked on to the 26-and-a-half year sentence he is already serving for Alabama-based child pornography charges after he was found guilty in October 2014 of impersonating an FBI agent in South Dakota.

U.S. District Judge Roberto A. Lange sentenced Alabaster resident Michael Thetford, who also uses the alias Russ LNU, to the 70-month sentence during a Jan. 6 hearing in Pierre, S.D. Thetford was sentenced on charges of felon in possession of a firearm, impersonating a federal officer, interstate stalking and tampering with a witness.

When he was sentenced on the South Dakota charges, Thetford was already serving a more than 26-year sentence handed down in the Northern District of Alabama in June 2013 for production of child pornography, receipt of child pornography, felon in possession of firearms, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Lange did not grant a request filed a few days before his sentencing to receive a sentence of exile from the United States rather than prison time.

“Thetford requests a sentence of exile and banishment, which would accomplish the same goals (as a prison sentence) … without the costs of incarceration,” Thetford’s public defender attorney wrote in the request, which was filed on Dec. 31, 2014.

Thetford’s South Dakota charges stemmed from a May 28, 2010 incident, during which Thetford arrived at a home owned by William Jack Winslett and Shirley Winslett in Hughes County, N.D., and claimed he was an FBI agent.

After threatening to arrest the couple, Thetford began driving the couple to Sioux City, Iowa. After reaching Humboldt, S.D., Thetford told the victims he had received a call clearing the victims of the fictitious charges before returning them home.

After FBI agents located evidence, including fake law enforcement credentials, at his Alabaster home in November 2011, they eventually uncovered Thetford’s plot to illegally transfer land owned by the Winsletts in Alabama to himself.

Thetford will serve the 70-month sentence from South Dakota after completing his 26-and-a-half year sentence from Alabama.