What is the dark web?
The man convicted of trying to kill his stepmother in a dark web assassination plot was sentenced Tuesday to three years in state prison.
Beau Brigham, 33, of Riverside, faced up to nine years for the solicitation of murder of his stepmom, a San Luis Obispo resident, using a dark web site that was operated as a scam to take people’s money.
Due to credit for the time already served and sentencing rules, Brigham likely will spend about four months of additional time behind bars, the District Attorney’s Office stated in a press release.
Judge Jesse Marino considered mitigating factors such as Brigham’s medical condition and lack of sophistication in carrying out a crime.
Marino noted no final payment was made for the amount requested by the Besa Mafia website purportedly to kill someone.
Marino said it should have been clear that the dark web site was a scam, which was written about on traditional, public internet sites.
Marino said Brigham needed to take responsibility for his actions, calling it a “serious and unusual case.”
“You need to take responsibility, and I’m disappointed to see that you have not,” Marino said. “You continue to show no remorse.”
The victim’s statement
Brigham’s stepmother also read a statement in court at the sentencing, saying Brigham led a privileged life. She said he had a wonderful father — Jeff Brigham, a Saratoga bar and night club owner — to whom she’d been married until his 2011 death.
The prosecution argued the dark web solicitation was connected to Brigham’s anger toward his stepmother, whom he blamed for financial decisions related to his family’s trust — noting he stood to gain in his inheritance if she were dead.
“I’m furious to be dragged into this,” said the SLO woman, who isn’t being identified to protect her privacy. “... Beau needed every last dime to be satisfied... I wish him strength and courage to face his demons.”
The stepmother added that Brigham is not special because he is suffering, as many people in the courtroom Tuesday have been suffering. How people cope with suffering makes them special, she said.
“Good luck,” she concluded, directing her comment to Brigham.
Brigham was convicted after a self-described cybercrime analyst from England, Chris Monteiro, discovered his attempt to order the assassination. Monteiro informed CBS’s “48 Hours,” which aired a segment on the case as part of a dark web story.
The web messages stated that Brigham wanted the assassination to look like an accident and provided the website with information about his stepmother that included a photo of her, potential addresses and the kind of car she drove.
SLO police visited Brigham in Palm Desert, where he was living with his stepmother, and he made admissions that connected him to the crime.
Brigham read a lengthy statement Tuesday saying he thinks he’ll die within two months, adding he suffers from Lyme disease, brain damage and believes cancer is spreading in his body.
“I’ve spent all my money from inheritance on getting medical treatment around the world,” Brigham said. “I’m in a semi-vegetative state. I’m bed ridden.”
Brigham also showed an eight-minute music video in court of his life before he got sick showing him riding a bike, snowboarding, bartending, visiting a winery and various travel destinations such as San Francisco and New York to show how his life has deteriorated in recent years.
“I never wanted anyone hurt,” Brigham said in court. “I’m sorry for this huge mess. I didn’t want anyone hurt. That’s not who I am.”
Conflicting evidence was presented in the case about Brigham’s medical condition and mental state.
Defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu said doctors diagnosed his client with somatic symptom syndrome (obsession on physical symptoms such as pain or fatigue, associated with emotional distress) and brain damage caused by Lyme disease.
“It doesn’t help society to put mentally ill people in jail,” said Funke-Bilu, arguing for a probation sentence. ”He needs treatment.”
But Deputy District Attorney Michael Frye said it’s difficult to determine symptoms from Lyme disease, and that he may be ill, but his mind was clear when he went online to a dark web site to order the hit.
“This was not a fleeting crime,” Frye said. “He didn’t get on the internet and quickly order something he regretted, as we all do from time to time. He went to a dark web assassination site and communicated his intentions over a period of time on several occasions. He had a clear mind. He was rational.”
Frye argued Brigham deserved a minimum of six years in prison, with a possible upper term of nine years, saying he made his stepmother fear for her life.
Funke-Bilu said Brigham paid $2.95 toward the assassination that would have cost a minimum of $5,000, according to the Besa Mafia site, and argued the crime was never acted upon.
“I’m very disappointed in the sentencing,” Funke-Bilu said outside court. “He never made the payment. All he did was enter (expletive) $2.95.”
But District Attorney Dan Dow called Brigham’s actions “cowardly.”
“This cowardly criminal used the latest technology to prevent his detection, but he could not successfully hide,” Dow wrote in a release. “I am grateful that the expert staff and resources of our Central Coast Cyber Forensic Laboratory assisted in proving this crime so that it could be successfully prosecuted. And most importantly, I am grateful for the courage of the victim who reluctantly came to court only to endure the rigor of cross examination.”