ISLE OF WIGHT Co., Va. - An 18-year-old Smithfield High School student accused of making a social media threat against the school plead guilty to extortion.
Paul M. Emerson was sentenced to five years with three years and eight months suspended. He is on supervised probation for two years.
Investigators said Emerson threatened students at Smithfield High School on October 16, 2018 using social media. The threat was discovered around lunchtime and the school was placed on lockdown.
Through the investigation, the Isle of Wight County Sheriff's Office seized a number of items from a home on Carrollton Boulevard including an AR-15 rifle, two loaded magazines, .233 ammunition, multiple cell phones, USB drives, flash drives, an iPad and a Kindle.
According to court documents, Emerson told deputies he's depressed and experienced bullying at both Smithfield and Windsor High Schools over a previous arrest for allegedly threatening serious bodily harm to a person on school property in February.
Emerson's mother, Melissa Jacuzzi, backed up the bullying claims, speaking with News 3 off-camera outside the Isle of Wight County Courthouse after her son's arraignment.
She said Emerson, a senior at Smithfield High School, was bullied relentlessly, including physically, prior to his arrest.
She believes her son snapped and said he does not remember making the threat. She said it's not how he was raised.
Jacuzzi, 51, was also charged with obstruction of justice in connection to the case. She claims it's because she didn't allow investigators to search her personal tablet and phone.
Emerson's next court date is scheduled for January 10. Jacuzzi says she hopes to get her son out of jail and into mental health treatment.