Last Friday, the FBI announced the arrest of a Canadian teenager allegedly responsible for multiple “swatting” attacks on schools and neighborhoods throughout the United States, including one recent high profile swatting incident in Greenwich, Connecticut. Top Stamford and Greenwich criminal lawyers are following this case closely, as it is a relatively new crime using advanced cell phone technology.
The days of puling fire alarms are long gone. Kids, with the assistance of apps and telecommunications software, can now wreak havoc on Connecticut emergency response teams, including SWAT teams. What is being done to combat these crimes and how can even the best criminal lawyers and attorneys in Greenwich, Stamford and elsewhere in Connecticut possibly defend a suspect against state and federal charges like these?
Keep reading to find out…
Swatting is a term used to describe criminal conduct by an individual who intentionally provides false statements to police to suggest that a threat, or clear and present danger, exists at a home, school or other location within a town for the sole purpose of triggering the police to respond with emergency response and tactical units such as SWAT teams. (Recall that SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics team). Obviously, when a SWAT team is dispatched, a substantial amount of police personnel, resources, and equipment rush to the scene, at great costs and expense to a Connecticut town’s police force. There is also great risk to the community when police cars and vehicles are racing through town in their efforts to get to the crime scene as quickly as possible. Further, in the most malicious scenarios, the prank call can possibly be used as a distraction to the SWAT teams so that a true terrorist or criminal attack can occur elsewhere in town. As a result of all these considerations, state and federal authorities consider Swatting to be extremely serious and will almost certainly look for a significant amount of jail time for anyone found guilty of this crime in Connecticut.
On April 17, 2014, a report that an armed intruder had taken hostages in a backcountry Round Hill Road home caused a mass response of the Greenwich Police Department’s SWAT team, or Special Response Unit, as it’s called locally. While it was later determined to be a hoax, police surrounded and entered this home with guns drawn, which is always a dangerous situation, especially when residents are not expecting police.
One of the main questions Greenwich criminal lawyers get with a case like this is how can a teenager in Canada manipulate the phone system to make a 911 call that appears to 911 dispatchers to come from backcountry Greenwich Connecticut? Shockingly, there are new apps and cell phone technologies called “ghost calling” or “mirror calling” which enable people to call third parties from a hidden phone number yet display another phone number that has nothing do with the outgoing caller. What I suspect happened here is that the accused Swatter took the phone number of the Greenwich Round Hill Road home and displayed it on their 911 call, making it virtually impossible for the Greenwich police to know that it was a hoax at the time of the 911 call. And when a hostage call comes in, law enforcement cannot afford to take any chances so they dispatch their full tactical team.
While many would argue that a crime like swatting is indefensible, the top criminal lawyers in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan and other cities in Connecticut understand that sometimes a court will consider additional factors in granting leniency or mitigation of sentence. The age of an accused Swatter is always a factor. Due to their young age and limited intellect, a 15 or 16 year old clearly does not appreciate the severity of their conduct or the risks they are posing to the community. Additionally, if the suspects suffer from any mental health disease, defect or disability, then the court will often consider this in its sentence or culpability findings. We often have our clients who are accused of similar crimes forensically evaluated, as the law does in fact allow special defenses, dispositions and first-time offender diversionary programs for offenders suffering from serious mental health issues. For example, Connecticut’s Supervised Diversionary Program, or the “Psychiatric Accelerated Rehabilitation Program” (also known as “Pysch AR”) is one of these programs that judges will consider. However you can only be found eligible for this program after a thorough mental health examination and study by the State of Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
So whether you are charged with Swatting or the less serious and more commonly charged Making a False Report to the Police under CGS 53a-180, you should immediately consult with a top Stamford or Greenwich Connecticut criminal lawyer to understand how you can defend yourself from these charges. Police, prosecutors and the community in general have little patience for these crimes and find them to be even more outrageous and morally reprehensible than many violent crimes like domestic violence. So take the first step in getting in front of charges like these and call a criminal lawyer today.