A Maryland teenager who sent a threatening message via the Internet saying students in Berkeley Heights were in danger of being shot while in school, pled guilty yesterday to causing a false public alarm, said Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow.
Using an Xbox Live account, the teenager was able to obtain the user name and password of a Governor Livingston High School student following an online transaction involving the Madden NFL game, said Romankow. The transaction was on a third party website and not connected to either Microsoft or the game developer. Maryland teenager then sent a message to nearly 100 people, including students Governor Livingston High School pretending to be the user, said Romankow. In the message, the teen said he was going to bring a gun to school the following day and would be shooting fellow students.
The message was sent on January 25, 2011 at 10:48p.m., said Romankow. Several concerned parents of students notified the Berkeley Heights Police Department within several hours of the message being sent.
An investigation was immediately launched by the Berkeley Heights Police Department who sought additional help from the Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Unit, said Romankow. Detectives were able to determine that the message originated from a location in Maryland.
Members of the High Tech Unit and Berkeley Heights Police Department traveled to Maryland with local officials where they interviewed the teenager. The investigation revealed that the teenager in question had conducted an online transaction with the New Jersey teen a few hours before sending the threat. The Berkeley Heights teenager had no previous knowledge that his user name or password had been stolen and was not charged in the case.
The Maryland teenager was later charged in New Jersey with causing a false public alarm.
As part of his plea, the Maryland teenager received one year of probation, must complete 40 hours of community service and is required to write a letter of apology to both the students and staff at Governor Livingston. He must also write a five-page report on the book “Columbine” by David Cullen and pay the mandatory fines and penalties plus a civil penalty of $2,000. His probation will be transferred to Maryland.
Romankow urged parents and guardians to get more involved with their children’s Internet activities and to take the time to educate themselves with the particular programs and devices children use to communicate with one another.