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Ex-butler who held socialite hostage, injected her in extortion attempt gets 20-year sentence

The former butler who injected a Kent socialite with what he claimed was a lethal virus, then demanded $8.5 million for an antidote has been sentenced to 20 years.

Before being sentenced, Emanuel Nicolescu proclaimed his innocence and asked the judge to be merciful. 

The crime he was sentenced for happened on April 15, 2007, when Nicolescu and two others broke into Anne Bass' stately home and held her hostage for about six hours.

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He had served as Bass' butler until he was fired in 2006 after using one of her vehicles for an unauthorized personal trip and crashing it.

Bass, 70, testified during the trial and said she was headed to her kitchen when she heard "war cries" and saw three men in black hoods and clothes, carrying guns and knives.

"In my memory, I just see them almost like they were in some military formation," Bass testified.

She said she pulled the kitchen door closed, but the men grabbed her and shoved her to the floor in her living room.

"I was asking them what they wanted," Bass said. "They just told me to shut up."

Bass said she also heard them restrain her companion, Julian Lethbridge.

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Then they took them to Bass' upstairs bathroom, where they held them, bound and blindfolded, for most of a six-hour ordeal.

At one point, they heard loud snaps and clicks. 

"I thought they were about to blow the house up. I was sure we were going to die," Bass said.

Then, Bass described the injections she and Lethbridge received. 

One of the captors cut the sleeve of her bathrobe, cleaned off her shoulder with an alcohol wipe and then stuck a needle into her arm, Bass said. 

"It was excruciating," she said.

They said it as a lethal virus and demanded $8.5 million for an antidote.

"It all seemed really strange," said Bass. "An antidote is for poison, not a virus. It didn't make any sense."

Bass, in tears, said she spent a lot of time thinking about her two children and "how horrible this would be for them because I was sure I was going to die." 

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Bass also said she feared her 3-year-old grandson would also die. He was sleeping in a room nearby.  "I just didn't see how anyone could survive something like that," she said.

Toward the end of the ordeal, Bass described what has become a recurring nightmare for her.  She said, "I felt like someone was just staring at me with these piercing blue eyes."

The defense claimed Nicolescu had nothing to do with either planning or carrying out the crime. 

They challenged Bass' testimony about seeing a suspect with blue eyes and said such details appeared nowhere in her statements to police.

Bass said she told police several times about the recollection.

Eventually, the captors drugged Bass and Lethbridge. When they slept, the captors left the estate in one of Bass' Jeeps.

When Bass woke up, she was able to free herself and Lethbridge. Her grandson was unharmed.

Nicolescu was charged with attempted extortion and other offenses and found guilty in March.

He could have been sentenced to up to 50 years in federal prison, but he was sentenced to 20 years on count 1, 20 on count 2, and 10 on count 3, to be served concurrently.

Prosecutors previously said DNA evidence linked him to the stolen Jeep that Bass purchased after Nicolescu was fired from his job.

Nicolescu's attorneys said they are disappointed and will file motions and argued that the government did not have sufficient evidence.

Lawyers for the defense said the don't think Nicolescu will be the last person to be tried for the crime.

During sentencing proceedings on Friday, there was a recess so Nicolescu could review a sentencing agreement, which he had not done earlier.

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