NORFOLK, Va. (WRIC) — A Norfolk man has been given four years in federal prison for a gun charge after prosecutors say he threatened to kill a Norfolk detective.

In December 2021, Thomas Liddle was wanted for failing to appear in court on unrelated charges. Working on a tip, Norfolk Police found him sitting in a parked car in the city. While he was being arrested, officers found a 9 mm pistol.

Unfortunately for Liddle, he had previously been convicted of robbery — a conviction that barred him from possessing a firearm. Liddle was charged with the new offenses, and evidently released on bond.

That’s when the threatening messages started.

In February 2021, a Norfolk detective tasked with coordinating with the FBI began receiving “threatening text messages from an unknown individual,” including death threats against him and his family. The texts also signaled that the sender knew where the detective lived and worked.

An investigation found that the number was used by an app called TextNow, and a subpoena of the company revealed that the number itself was used by an IP address at a motel on Military Highway.

When police searched the motel, they found a suspect — referred to only as M.S. in court records — who had the cell phone used to send the messages.

When he was questioned by the FBI, Liddle admitted that he had arranged for M.S. to send the threats. The defendant had been hospitalized for an overdose, and the detective, acting on behalf of the FBI, approached him to ask for cooperation on a drug investigation.

Instead, Liddle called his dealer, who told him to work with M.S. to find personal information on the detective and intimidate him into staying away.

In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said Liddle had exhibited a “pattern of escalating behavior” that merited a sentence of 57 months — a little less than five years — in prison.

But in their own sentencing letter, Liddle’s defense attorney said the underlying gun charge, while admitted to, should be treated as less serious because Liddle wasn’t even aware that the gun was there. Instead, they said the gun was actually found in the purse of Liddle’s girlfriend, which had been left in the car Liddle was sleeping in — and that she herself was the one who told the police where Liddle was.

As a result of those factors, they called for a sentence of 3.5 years. Ultimately, the judge tended towards the lower end of the requested range, imposing a sentence of 4 years.