A Westlake Village shipping clerk who in a year's time sent nearly 6,000 threatening letters to actor Michael J. Fox was sentenced to three years probation Friday after she pleaded guilty to three counts of making terrorist threats.
Tina Marie Ledbetter, 27, was ordered to receive psychiatric therapy and to stay away from Fox, his wife, actress Tracy Pollan, and the couple's young child.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Susan J. Gruber said Ledbetter could face a maximum jail term of four years and four months if she violates the terms of the plea bargain, which was entered in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Gruber said she believed the nine months of jail time that Ledbetter has already served "got her attention" and may deter her from repeating her threats to kill Fox or his family members.
Ledbetter told investigators that she hated Pollan and was furious when Fox married her.
The expletive-filled letters, written in capital letters and punctuated with strings of exclamation points, began arriving in February, 1988, at a rate averaging 15 per day. When she was arrested a year later, after two boxes of rabbit feces sent to Fox were traced to her home, investigators found numerous threatening letters ready to be sent.
During the trial, Fox testified that he took the threats seriously and that they "changed my life style extensively." Fox hired a security agency, arranged for extra security on the set and said Pollan traveled under a false name before Ledbetter's arrest.
"She has a lot to lose if she violates her probation," Gruber said of Ledbetter. "The time in custody has served as a potential rehabilitation, as far as her understanding of the nature and consequences of her crime."
Ledbetter, who had never lived apart from her mother before being taken into custody last February and held without bail in the psychiatric unit of the Sybil Brand Institute for Women, was to be released either Friday or today, as soon as the necessary documents could be processed.
She was among the first individuals to be prosecuted under a law that makes verbal threats a crime, regardless of the person's intent to carry them out. The law was designed originally to be a tool to stop gang intimidation of witnesses.
Gruber acknowledged concern that Ledbetter might once again pose a threat to Fox. But, she said, "it is hard to predict future dangerousness and Miss Ledbetter has not been a physical aggressor."
According to Gruber, Fox agreed that Ledbetter's sentence was appropriate.
"I hope we have a handle on her now, and we will closely supervise and monitor her to make sure she is no longer a threat to them or to herself," Gruber said.