United States Federal Courthouse Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.
United States Federal Courthouse Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.

The owner of a Riverside County art gallery was sentenced Monday in Los Angeles to five years in federal prison for creating disparaging websites targeting an art publisher and sending threatening messages demanding money to take them down.

The crimes of Jason White, owner of White Galleries in Temecula, were “injurious and horrendous,” said U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, who ordered the defendant to serve three years under supervised release after he is set free from prison.

“Given the nature of the crime, it wasn’t a one-shot type of offense,” the judge said. “It was premeditated.”

White was arrested in February after engaging in a six-month campaign of electronic and telephonic harassment that targeted art world professionals from whom he sought hundreds of thousands of dollars, court papers show.

At one point, White harassed his former employer, an art publisher, as well as his supervisor at the publisher’s company. The identities of the publisher and supervisor were not disclosed.

After creating derogatory websites in the publisher’s name, White sent threatening text messages to the  publisher, the publisher’s son and the former supervisor, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In a text message to his former supervisor, White threatened to find her family and make her pay with “fear, anguish and pain.”

On several occasions, White obtained photos of her child and sent pictures of the child to the victim with comments such as “it will be very unfortunate if something was to happen to him,” according to court documents.

All the while, White continued to demand payment in exchange for taking down the websites he had created and made it known to the victims that their business reputation would be ruined and that his websites would forever show up any time anyone searched for their name on the Internet, prosecutors said.

In January, White went to the Facebook page of a well-known artist represented by the art publisher and posted a picture of himself, along with a statement that he was focusing on the artist’s wife and child.

White wrote that he would be waiting in the bushes to “kneecap a child.” Through the Facebook message, White told the artist, “your children are my end game.”

White, 43, pleaded guilty in March to two counts of stalking, and could have been sentenced to as long as 10 years in federal prison.

The sort of emotional harm caused by White in the case “is more destructive and long lasting than a physical assault,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa E. Feldman wrote in sentencing papers.

Deputy Public Defender Yasmin Cader unsuccessfully argued for two years in prison followed by treatment in a residential facility.

“Under the circumstances, the court finds that proposal grossly inadaquate,” Wilson said.

Court papers show White has felony convictions for possessing controlled substances and unlawfully possessing a weapon, as well as a misdemeanor conviction for fraud.

The case against White was investigated by the FBI’s Art Crime Team.

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