ironically earlier today that the Discovery Channel gunman, an environmentalist radical, was at least on the conservative side, in that he is an immigration restrictionist. Now that turns out not to be the case.
Discovery Channel gunman prosecuted here for alien smuggling
Lee, slain after standoff in Maryland, was sentenced to 18 months in prison
Records in U.S. District Court in San Diego show that a James Jae Lee was sentenced in August 2003 to 18 months in federal prison for trying to smuggle an illegal immigrant in a hidden compartment in a car through the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
The gunman who stormed the Discovery Channel building in Maryland on Wednesday and was shot to death following a four-hour hostage standoff with police wrote a San Diego federal judge seven years ago that he was a loner whose life was “a nightmare.”
In a letter to the judge on the eve of his 2003 sentencing, Lee outlined a life that he said “was a nightmare for me.”
“As to any friends, I have none,” he wrote. “I have been and always be a loner.”
And in a passage that seems eerily ominous in light of Wednesday’s events, he mused about how his life would turn out.
“I don’t know if my life will end with a happy ending, but all I ask is for an ending that is not in prison,” Lee wrote.
The spelling of the middle name in the 2003 court records is different from the James Jay Lee identified as the gunman Wednesday. But the James Lee prosecuted seven years ago has the same date of birth—June 1, 1967—as the one arrested for disorderly conduct outside the Discovery Channel’s Silver Spring headquarters in 2008.
Police have not formally identified the gunman in Wednesday’s hostage standoff, but federal law enforcement officials have said he was James J. Lee, 43.
Lee spent time in Hillcrest and downtown San Diego before moving to the Washington, D.C., area in 2007, according to his online postings.
At 1 p.m. Wednesday, he stormed the cable channel’s Silver Spring offices with at least one explosive device strapped to his body and held three people hostage at gunpoint in the lobby.
The hostages were unhurt. Most of the 1,900 people who work in the building were able to make it out before the standoff ended.
Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said tactical officers moved in after police monitoring building security cameras saw him pull out a handgun and point it at a hostage.
An explosive device on the gunman’s body detonated when police shot him, Manger said.
Police were trying to determine whether two boxes and two backpacks the gunman had also contained explosives.
NBC News reported that after its producers called Discovery’s general number, a man identifying himself as James J. Lee got on the phone and said: “I have several bombs strapped to my body ready to go off. I have a device that if I drop it, if I drop it, it will … explode,”
He said he built the bombs in about three weeks. “I did a lot of research. I had to experiment,” he said.
In his 2003 three-page letter to U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz, Lee wrote he was estranged from his family and stayed away from them for his own “sanity.”
“After 36 years of my life,” he wrote, “I have nothing to show for it.”
But his younger brother, Aaron Lee, did write a brief letter to Moskowitz.
He said James Lee was loved by his family, was nonviolent and did not smoke, drink or do drugs. Aaron Lee said his brother had been “a devoted Jehovah Witness for a decade.”
James Lee wrote the judge that he got into human smuggling after being robbed and assaulted in a Tijuana motel room.
He told authorities after his arrest that he was offered $1,000 for each person he smuggled into the United States. When he was caught March 15, 2003, agents found a Mexican woman unconscious in the Lincoln Town Car’s secret compartment. She was revived with oxygen. He told authorities that he had previously smuggled two other immigrants.
He wrote Moskowitz that he regretted agreeing to work for the smuggler but said he was at the bottom, after “years and years of dead end jobs, failed attempts at a normal life, trying to give some meaning to my life, only to end up disillusioned and cynical.”
He said he spent his childhood alone in his room, drawing pictures from comic books. “Needless to say this didn’t help me to develop any good social habits,” he wrote.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported on its website Wednesday that Lee, who gave Hawaii as his hometown on his MySpace page, was given a 12.5 percent ownership stake in a Lahaina home in 2003 through a family trust. The newspaper said property records show he sold his interest in 2007 for $90,000.
Lee penned ranting manifestos on his website, savetheplanetprotest.com, painting himself as an activist against overpopulation, pollution and all other human actions that harm the environment.
A lengthy posting on a website registered to Lee said Discovery and its affiliates should stop “encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants,” a possible reference to shows such as “Kate Plus 8” and “19 Kids and Counting.” He said the network should air “programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility.”
At his protest at the network headquarters in 2008, he threw thousands of dollars into the air as part of his message.
At the trial, he said he began working to save the planet after being laid off from a job in San Diego.
County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said Lee was ordered to stay 500 feet away from Discovery headquarters as part of his probation, which ended two weeks ago. A magistrate ordered a doctor’s evaluation, but the result was not available Wednesday.
In a 2006 blog entry, he wrote about setting up meetings at the Joyce Beers Community Center in Hillcrest and doing research at San Diego State University.
“Been having some strange dreams,” he writes in the same entry. “I can’t seem to stop myself from this venture. I can’t think about anything else except this and this alone. … I am ready to go all the way with this one. All the way guys!”
SDSU officials said Wednesday that Lee was never registered as a student at the school.
Records indicate he used a P.O. Box in Hillcrest at one time and was linked to a business called SupaCycle Art Studio.
Lee wrote to Judge Moskowitz that when he got out of prison he wanted to pursue an art career and provided eight portraits, including one of a ship’s cook and one of a man named “Big Tony.”
But he was pessimistic at the end of the letter.
“When I get out of prison I will undoubtedly have the same personality traits as I had before,” he wrote. “I wish I could point a finger at someone or something and magically be someone else. But I can’t.”
Lee repeatedly listed his inspirations as former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and environmentalist Daniel Quinn’s novel “My Ishmael.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
[end of article]
, which begins with the famous line, “Call me Ishmael,” was posted by me before I heard about the Daniel Quinn novel,
, that influenced James Lee. The reason I posted it was that in a moment of relaxation the previous evening, I had read that part of the book, and wanted to share it with readers. It’s just another little example of how VFR is, without any effort on my part, tuned into the synchronicity of things.
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