One of the problems with social media, anonymous interactions, and our current political climate is that people who are mere profiles are “less real” than they are when you are facing them in person. For some reason, people feel emboldened to make threats against institutions that they do not like online much more frequently than they would in person.
Recently, a 19-year-old man was charged with threatening to slaughter doctors, patients, and visitors of a Chicago abortion clinic. The threats were made over a social media site known as iFunny where users can share humorous or amusing memes with one another. Of course, afterward, Farhan Sheikh claimed the entire thing was a joke. But making a hoax threat is still illegal.
However, Sheikh basically threatened to slaughter anyone he saw at an abortion clinic that was about four miles away from his house and then warned FBI agents that his account was not satire and that they should take his threats seriously. Obviously, not very funny.
However, when FBI agents confronted him, he told them that it was just a joke and he picked a random abortion clinic and a random date to initiate the massacre. He also referenced Justin Olson, an 18-year-old from Ohio who made threats against federal agents under the username ArmyOfChrist.
Hoax Threats are Federal Crimes
Sheikh will appear before a federal judge when he is tried for making a threat. How much trouble he is in will depend on whether or not he had the means to carry out the threat. Even if he does not have the means to carry out the threat, Sheikh can still face five years in federal prison for “threatening interstate communications.” Whenever someone makes a threat such as this online, the FBI will investigate. If they determine you have the means to carry out the threat or are preparing to carry out the threat, then you will face substantial criminal charges and perhaps a life sentence.
Schools Still Taking the Brunt of Hoax Threats
The majority of hoax threats are still targeted at schools. Recently, two Florida schools were locked down after someone phoned in threats to at least five West Palm Beach area schools. They still have not caught the person who phoned in the threats, but the threats were deemed to not be credible. If they catch the person, however, that individual can face dive counts of “threatening interstate communications” and face 25 years in federal prison.
So, if you have a big test tomorrow and you just are not prepared, you are better off calling in sick and taking a makeup exam rather than getting the whole school shut down.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are accused of a federal crime, you need an attorney who is capable of defending you in federal court. Instead of local P.D., you will be dealing with federal agents, federal laws, and federal judges. David Freidberg, Attorney at Law, has defended clients in federal court before. Call us today at (312) 560-7100 for more information.
(image courtesy of Fabian Grohs)