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Sonora man gets 33 months for 2016 primary election bomb threats

A 43-year-old Nogales, Sonora, man was sentenced to 33 months in prison by a federal judge in Tucson after he was accused of placing dozens of telephoned bomb threats to locations in Tucson and Phoenix last year, including several made the day of Arizona's presidential preference election.

Following a plea agreement made in November, Octavio Acosta De La Torre was sentenced on Feb. 21 by U.S. District Judge David C. Bury to prison, along with a $1,000 fine and three years of supervised release. De La Torre is also required to pay nearly $46,000 in restitution to the Arizona Attorney's General Office for costs incurred by his threats, according to court records. 

From March 22, Arizona's "primary" election day, to April 1, 2016, De La Torre placed repeated telephone calls to locations in Arizona claiming that bombs had been placed in the buildings. That included the Arizona Attorney's General Office in Phoenix, the Pima County Attorney's Office, the Federal Building in downtown Tucson, a doctor's office, and four Tucson-area high schools. 

In all of the calls, he used the same phone number based in Nogales Sonora, according to court documents. 

The claimed reasons for the bombings changed depending on the call. According to court documents, when De La Torre called the AG office in Phoenix, he said that there were "thousands of bombs surrounding the building." 

"This is for ISIS, bitch!" he said. Officials evacuated the building, but no devices were found. 

Less than 30 minutes later, he called a federal building in Tucson and asked: "How many marshals do you think are going to die today? How many marshals are going to die 'cause there is a bomb in the building... El Chapo mother fucker."

The same day the presidential preference election was held in Arizona, bombings in Brussels, Belgium, killed more than 30 people and injured more than 200.

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De La Torre later identified himself as Ismael and made another seven calls that day, requiring evacuations in each instance. On March 25, he placed a call to Tucson Dermatology and said that there was a bomb that would explode in five minutes. "Long live Allah," he said before hanging up. 

Tucson police determined that the phone number used in each instance was De La Torre's because his sister, Rosa Frisby filed a report with the department on March 17 indicating that she and her father were fearful of him. During repeated calls to an El Rio health center on March 22, De La Torre identified himself as his brother-in-law, Ismael Frisby. 

After learning that there was a warrant out for his arrest, De La Torre turned himself in to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Douglas Port of Entry on April 2 last year.

Investigators later learned that De La Torre had also placed threatening calls to Calvary Chapel, the Pima County Attorney's Office, and two Navy recruiting offices. He also placed 42 phone calls to TPD officers to insult them, according to court records.

The day of the March primary, the Federal Building in Tucson was evacuated after a bomb threat. Another bomb threat led to the evacuation of the Pima County Attorney's Office on North Stone Avenue. Marana High School was evacuated after a threat, as were El Rio Community Health Center on West Congress Street, and the El Rio Learning Center on West Speedway.

Another suspected threat that day caused the Pima County Recorder's telephone voter hotline to go unanswered for about an hour after staffers were evacuated from the Pima County Public Service Center, 240 N. Stone Ave. Police determined a "suspicious package" found nearby was harmless, and it was later retrieved by the person who had left it behind.

Mark Willimann, the attorney who defended De La Torre, wrote that the calls were a "cry for help" because his client had become "desperately" alone in Mexico because his parents and siblings are all legal permanent residents of the United States. He said that the De La Torre's "rash of dangerous telephone calls" were made during an "extremely 'manic' phase associated with a panoply of mental health issues." 

De La Torre was found competent to assist his own defense following a psychiatric evaluation by a doctor, and Willimann wrote that his client exhibited "a dramatic and positive improvement in his mental health" since De La Torre was incarcerated. 

The prosecution was handled by Beverly K. Anderson and Cory Picton, assistant U.S. attorneys in Tucson and the investigation was handled by the FBI and TPD. 

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Octavio Acosta De La Torre