A 20-year-old man charged with the manslaughter of 60-year-old Mark Herring in a dispute over the victim’s valuable Twitter handle was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison.
Shane Sonderman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to send police to Herring’s home with a false report of an alleged murder in April 2020, when Sonderman was 18, leading to Herring’s death from a heart attack. Both men were Tennessee residents.
The “swatting” prank, in which people call the police for an innocent person with false reports of a crime, was an escalation of a dispute Sonderman had over Herring’s Twitter handle @Tennessee, which Herring claimed secured when he was short. time joined the social media network after its inception.
Mark Herring, 60, was the victim of ‘swatting’, the prank that involved calling the police on an innocent person with false claims that they had committed a serious crime, and as a result died of a heart attack. Shane Sonderman was sentenced to five years in prison on Wednesday for his role in the prank
Haring was targeted by Shane Sonderman via his Twitter handle @Tennessee, which Herring claimed when he joined the social media site
Federal Judge Mark Norris said that despite Herring’s death as a result of the racketeering scheme, five years was the maximum Sonderman could get under the sentencing guidelines, according to Krebs on security.
“While it may seem inadequate, the law is the law,” Norris said. “The damage it caused, the death and destruction… it’s almost unspeakable. These are not the cases we often have with guns, carjacking and drugs. This is a whole different level of insidious criminal behavior here.”
Sonderman and another staff member in the UK, who were both underage at the time, concocted an elaborate joke to blackmail Haring in an attempt to get the @Tennessee handle.
His daughter Corrina Fitch told myhighplains.com that Herring originally chose the handle @Tennessee because he loves the Volunteers, the University of Tennessee soccer team.
His daughter Corrina Fitch (pictured) said Haring originally chose the handle @Tennessee because of his love for the Vols, the University of Tennessee soccer team
Herring was well aware that he had a special Internet asset and often bragged about the many offers he would receive for it to his children.
“He would casually say I got another offer on my Twitter handle today,” Fitch said.
But Herring was unwilling to sell the handle, leading to the dispute with Sonderman that began in March 2020 and led to Herring’s death a month later.
Prosecutors had explained in court that Sonderman would work online with co-conspirators to publish their victims’ personal information, call and text them and their relatives, and dispatch pizza delivery guys to their homes.
That happened in April 2020, when Herring’s daughter received a pizza delivery for her father at home. Her sister Katie Hooge and their mother, Fran Herring, who live opposite her, each received a pizza – also meant for Mark Herring – at their home.
Police surrounded Mark Herring’s Tennessee home (pictured) after a murder joke, and he died of a heart attack shortly afterwards
Fitch called her father and got no answer. She even sent him a Facebook message to find out what was going on. Then her sister sent her a message.
“My sister texted, ‘What is this about?'” And I just said, ‘I just got pizza for daddy at home,'” and she said, “We just got pizza for daddy at our house.”
Fitch thought it was a joke, but Mark’s son-in-law Greg Hooge sensed something was wrong and contacted Ann Billings, the 60-year-old’s live-in girlfriend, who confirmed it wasn’t okay.
“I’m in the back of a police car. I have to go,” she told him.
Earlier that day, an anonymous caller had reached out to Mark Herring and demanded that he hand over his Twitter handle worth thousands of dollars. When he refused, his house was beaten.
Haring died at Sumner Regional Medical Center after suffering a heart attack as a result of the prank
Fitch’s sister Katie Hooge and their mother, Fran Herring, (pictured) who live across town, said they were also involved in the prank, when Sonderman had pizzas delivered to their home.
“His neighbor called and said there are police everywhere and they think a man killed a woman and he’s on your property. You have to take cover,” Hooge told myhighplains.com.
Billings said in court that Herring had walked out to the back porch of the house they shared to see what was going on when police asked him to raise his hands and walk towards them on the street, Krebs reported. OnSecurity.
However, Haring was unable to open his rear gate and the police told him to climb over.
“He was getting more and more upset,” she said. “He said, ‘I’m a 60-year-old fat man and I can’t do that.'”
Instead, Haring crawled under the fence, but when he got up, he collapsed from a heart attack and died in a hospital shortly after.
“I believe he was terrified, and that’s what caused his heart attack,” his daughter said.
The family, who went to the local hospital Sumner Medical Center to identify his body, were informed about the prank call by medical personnel.
The family would later learn about Sonderman, who collected the entire family’s personal information — then sent the pizzas to prove it — as an intimidation tactic to get the handle.
“He was from Tennessee,” Fitch said. “He’s the one who gathered all our information… my address, my sister, my mother’s, my other sister’s. He put it on a channel on Discord, a game chat forum.”
A minor, who lives in the UK, was also involved in the plan and called the police.
The British accomplice has not been extradited from the United Kingdom because he is a minor.
A federal grand jury indictment claimed that Sonderman had six victims across the country, but Herring was the only one who died.