At a Thursday hearing in U.S. District Court in Roanoke, eyewitnesses, security camera footage and 911 phone recordings replayed Taylor's December invasion of the Wytheville post office and the nine-hour hostage standoff that followed.
At the hearing's end, despite Taylor's plea for "a little bit of help, a little bit of hope, maybe visits home on the weekends," a judge sentenced the 54-year-old Tennessean to 40 years in prison.
"Your history is one of a person who just lives outside society," and from whom society needs to be shielded, Judge Glen Conrad said.
U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy declared himself satisfied at what he termed "a functional life sentence" and likened Taylor to Roanoke neo-Nazi William A. White, now serving a 2-112 year jail term for threatening people.
Both men were motivated by ideology to provoke fear -- the definition of terrorism, Heaphy said. He said he hopes their punishment sends a message.
"If you are a terrorist, we will catch you, we will punish you. There is no higher priority than this," Heaphy said.
The Wytheville standoff began Dec. 23, when Taylor decided to register what he called a bourbon-and-OxyContin-fueled protest against President Obama, the war in Afghanistan and immigration. He drove up Interstate 81 from his home in Bristol, Tenn., planning to take over a post office in Roanoke. But tired by the drive, he stopped in Wytheville.
That afternoon, he walked into the post office pushing a wheelchair carrying a bag with four handguns. He fired a shot at the postmaster -- and missed -- then held a postal worker and two customers as hostages.
The postal worker, Marjorie Austin Crockett, described from the witness stand how Taylor put an ammunition box topped with blinking LED lights and wires on the counter and announced it held pounds of C-4 plastic explosive, enough to obliterate the building. He shot out a window firing toward police, and used Crockett as a shield, ranting through the hours about his dissatisfaction with the government.
Crockett got married Aug. 1 and still uses her maiden name at times. She was introduced on the stand Thursday by her married name.
Eventually, Taylor let his hostages go and rolled out to surrender. His bomb was fake.
The Wytheville rampage was the last in a series of violent acts that spanned Taylor's adult life.
His ex-wife, Karen Root of Bradenton, Fla., testified Thursday about how their 1977 marriage ended less than two years later after he pushed her down stairs while she was pregnant. Later, Taylor was convicted for sexually abusing their daughter, born after their divorce, and for trying to kill Root by shooting her three times.
Taylor's attorney, federal defender Fay Spence, argued that a 25-year sentence was sufficient punishment, saying Taylor needed to have hope that he would survive his sentence.
"It was a horrible thing, but it was not murder," Spence said. "No one was physically injured. It was over in less than 12 hours."
Taylor offered his own defense in a rambling courtroom statement in which he blamed the Wytheville standoff on depression and intoxication, as well as long-standing rage at the government.
"I should have handled it differently," he said. "I'm not a bad man. I don't have a bad heart."
He insisted he had served in the military, saying his duties were too secret to be described, and that he had a son who was killed in Afghanistan.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Giorno said there was no evidence of either. Giorno also said there was nothing to show Taylor was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when he invaded the post office.
Conrad said Taylor's actions and history warranted a lengthy sentence, but declined to impose the life term Giorno requested.
Besides the 40 years behind bars, the judge ordered Taylor to pay $898.78 to the post office.
Postmaster Terry Clark, who had ducked behind a corner as Taylor shot at him and who attended the sentencing, said the money would cover the cost of replacing the post office's window. It also would pay to replace the carpet in his office, on which Taylor had urinated throughout the standoff, Clark said.
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