OAKLAND — A former child actor and Yahoo employee was sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison last week for trying to acquire a chemical weapon through the Dark Web in a failed plot to kill his estranged wife.
Sanford “Bemi” Faison, 42, was sentenced to 71 months, along with five years federal probation, and ordered to pay minor fines and fees. Faison was charged in January with attempting to acquire a chemical that’s capable of causing death to someone who simply touches it. He wrote in online postings that his plan was to leave it somewhere for his wife to come into contact with it, and that murdering her was “the only way” to get full custody of his child.
U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam sentenced Faison on Aug. 26.
Prosecutors redacted the name of the chemical Faison attempted to acquire, describing it only as, “a colorless, volatile, flammable and highly toxic liquid” that is “easily absorbed through the skin and may produce life-threatening systemic effects with only a single drop.” Faison was caught because federal authorities saw his Dark Web post where he sought the chemical, according to court records.
In a sentencing memo, prosecutors described Faison’s actions as “premeditated, detached, and almost analytical.” The motive, prosecutors say, was a contentious divorce.
“He took precautionary and purposeful steps to avoid legal responsibility for his crime including, conducting his transaction in an anonymous portion of the Internet, using an alias, encrypted messaging, cryptocurrency, a ‘cut-out’ or innocent third party to take initial possession of the purported chemical, and a ‘drop’ address,” assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Kearney wrote in a memo, which asked Gilliam to impose the 71-month sentence.
According to court records, Faison grew up in New York City, the son of parents who were heavily involved in the Black National Theatre. He was a child actor, appearing in live performances and scoring two televised roles. He appeared in single episodes of Ghostwriter, a mystery show for kids, as well as the Cosby Show, where he portrayed Rudy Huxtable’s very nervous boyfriend.
In 2007, Faison moved to California after Yahoo offered him a job. He also worked as a youth mentor. His defense lawyer’s sentencing memo included dozens of letters of support from friends and family. The letters, filed publicly, contain the names and photos of Faison’s estranged wife and kids, but this news organization is not naming them due to a policy that protects the identities of domestic violence victims.
“What can I say at 75 years young? I would like to spend as much time as possible with my main man and his family while I am in good shape. If any of his contributions to humanity merit points for Leniency and Treatment to restore him to his loving mind and ways, please have this be the time he can cash in,” Sanford Faison’s father, Ade’ W. Faison, wrote in one letter.
In another, Sanford Faison’s sister, Desiree Bredemus, begged Gilliam “not to throw the book at him.”
“Prison is not the best place for a brilliant mind who happened to feel backed into a corner one day with everything and everyone closing in on him,” Bredemus wrote. “Sometimes, we tend to treat animals more humanly than we do people. If we were talking about a dog, we’d be understanding if, placed under similar conditions (of being backed into a corner with everything and everyone closing in on it) it lashed out or snapped.”