By Stella Lorence
BU News Service
BOSTON — A 23-year-old former Babson student was sentenced to 18 months in prison Monday in federal court after using Instagram to threaten dozens of professional and college athletes on teams he had bet on.
“It was hard for me to even read some of the threats. They were so severe,” Judge Patti Saris said Monday in court.
Addison Choi’s threats spanned multiple sports, including baseball, tennis and football, according to Saris. The “vile and racist death threats” were sent between July and December of 2017 to athletes and their families, according to police.
Choi pleaded guilty to one count of transmitting in interstate and foreign commerce a threat to injure a person of another.
Choi is set to stay in a low security facility close to his home in Orange County, Calif. with one year of supervised release and a $5,500 fine Saris said.
“What makes this so severe is not only the terrible language but the number of victims,” Saris said. “I have seen threat cases before but I have not seen one with so many victims.”
Choi has been regularly attending Gamblers’ Anonymous meetings and holds a leadership position in the group, according to his attorney Joseph Simons.
“I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned,” Choi said in a statement before the court. “I’ve accepted that I cannot undo the hurt I’ve done. I’m full of remorse.”
Choi is prohibited from any gambling activities as part of his sentence, including online gambling and casinos.
Saris refused the prosecution’s suggestion that Choi’s internet use be limited to only employment, education or religious purposes. She said she did not want to cut Choi off completely from communicating with other people, as long as he was using his real name on social media rather than posting anonymously and that he agreed to provide virtual access of his computer to probation.
Choi expressed a desire to personally apologize to each of his victims.
“I’ve come to understand the extent of what I’ve done,” Choi said. “I caused my victims fear and harm.”
Although Choi is prohibited from having any contact with the victims, Saris allowed for Choi to write a letter of apology that could be forwarded from probation to the U.S. attorney’s office to the victims.
“It’s called restorative justice, but I believe it works,” Saris said.
Simons said that Choi was raised with loving parents, but that he felt pressure to meet their expectations and he felt like gambling was “a shortcut” to the economic standards they held him to.
“The way I acted contradicts how I was raised by my parents,” Choi said.
Choi’s parents were present for the sentencing.
“I’m a parent myself. Maybe you felt the pressure from your parents to excel. Maybe that was too much for you, but that’s not an excuse,” Saris said.
Choi said he plans on finishing his college degree when he is released from prison and that he wants to continue attending Gamblers’ Anonymous meetings and help spread awareness for their services, especially to younger people.
“Babson College will not tolerate acts of bias and/or hate that violate our core values and cause harm to our collective sense of community,” Babson said in a bias incident response after the charges.
His prison sentence is expected to begin Jan. 15 so that he can “spend the holidays at home with [his] family,” Saris said.