By Ray Downs
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
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By RFT Staff
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By Allison Babka
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Aside from the khaki jail garb and leg shackles, Andrew Gladney cut a strikingly different image in federal court the morning of September 12 than when he was arrested late last year.
When FBI agents stormed into his Clayton townhouse December 14 and hauled a belligerent Gladney into custody, his walnut-color hair hung in long, straggly strands over his gaunt, pockmarked face. For a former fitness buff, Gladney was unusually thin. (See "7-Up vs. Coke," by Kristen Hinman, February 7 and February 14, 2008.) By last week's sentencing hearing, though, the heir to the 7-Up soft-drink fortune and cofounder of Savvis had regained the sturdy, groomed look of his distinctive pedigree.
It was such a dramatic contrast that U.S. District Court Judge Richard Webber pointed it out by holding up Gladney's mug shot, moments before meting out his sentence of 33 months in a federal penitentiary on a charge of extortion with the intent to injure.
"Many times the criminal-justice system restores lives, rather than takes them away," said Webber, referring to the ten months Gladney has spent behind bars, having been denied bond three times by judges from the U.S. District Court and by the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Added Judge Webber: "I've personally noticed many changes in Mr. Gladney."
Gladney, 46, faced twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the offense, apparently triggered by a bizarre lie Gladney's wife told him during drug-induced fantasizing.
The drama began in March 2007, when Susan "Jia-Jye" Wu told her husband she'd had a twenty-year incestuous affair with her brother who lives in Virginia. Wu said she and her brother even had a tryst during the weekend of her wedding to Andrew.
The revelations sent Gladney into a fit of rage, spurring him to dispatch a series of threatening e-mails and phone messages to his brother-in-law between March and November of last year.
On March 29, 2007, Gladney wrote this e-mail to his brother-in-law: "You better have $10,000 deposited in Jia-Jye's account by the end of the day, and $15,000 by the end of Friday. If you don't have it, to [sic] fucking bad! Borrow it, Mr. Harvard Sisterfucker...!"
Gladney went on to demand "a total of $25 Grand by close of business Friday, or the videotaped interview that I shot of Jia-Jye confessing to the affair and adding to the specifics in grim, grim detail, from 1986/1987, until 2006, at the motel in St. Louis will be copied and distributed to as many people as I can get it to in the CDC, Drexel Hospital, Punahoe School, Penn, etc. The first to get the news and the first tape copy will be your parents, and all of your family."
In a subsequent message, Gladney added: "By the way, lest you think that any of this is illegal — it is not. It's only extortion if the 'act' being covered up is a crime, not a sick double life."
In all, court records show, Gladney ordered his brother-in-law to wire him more than $100,000.
According to court papers, Gladney's in-laws were so terrorized by his advances that they installed a security system, while Gladney and his wife flaunted their invincibility. In a May 10, 2007, e-mail to her brother, Wu stated, "[Andrew] has power and force in place [sic] that are so far reaching, it should make any person who know [sic] his true capabilities and is in sound mind/living in this country TREMBLE IN FEAR."
But there was no incest, no twenty-year affair between siblings: Wu had made it all up.
"They were drug-induced fantasies," theorizes defense attorney Scott Rosenblum.
In May, Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Marcus dropped two additional charges against Gladney in exchange for his guilty plea. At the request of Rosenblum and fellow defense attorney Adam Fein, Marcus also agreed not to indict Gladney for obscenity crimes.
Despite the positive changes in Gladney, Judge Webber declared at sentencing, "There is a need to protect the public from him."
In addition to the prison term, Webber doled out two years of probation and drug counseling. It is not yet known to which federal pen Gladney will report. He will receive credit for the time already served.
Gladney was not fined or ordered to pay restitution. Fein, the defense attorney, had told the court that Gladney is "almost destitute." He has not worked for several years and no longer enjoys the trust fund once available to him.
Gladney remained composed as Webber delivered the judgment, repeatedly turning around in what appeared to be attempts to console his beloved wife. Sitting in the front row, Susan Wu rocked back and forth on her seat, head in her hands, weeping.
By most accounts, Andrew Gladney once had the world within reach. His family's vast wealth, mostly resulting from the 1978 sale of 7-Up to Philip Morris for a reported $500 million, opened many doors for the Clayton native. He attended prestigious schools: John Burroughs, Yale University and the Stern School (of business) at New York University. In 1995, Gladney financed an Internet startup that would later become the publicly traded corporation, Savvis.
But Gladney never found his professional niche. His ownership stake in Savvis dwindled progressively; in 1999, the firm fired him. He started another Internet company devoted to broadband sports content, but that venture failed before it got off the ground.