Ex-Indiana substitute teacher gets 10 months in prison for sending hoax bomb threats to schools, newspaper | Englishheadline


EVANSVILLE, Ind. — A former Indiana substitute teacher has been sentenced to 10 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to sending hoax bomb threats targeting numerous locations, including the school where she was employed at the time, the Justice Department announced Monday.

In January, Mary Fortner sent a bomb threat to a Milltown, Indiana, police officer targeting a Crawford County school where she was employed at the time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Fortner, 35, used an anonymous messaging application.

The following month, the Corydon Democrat, an Indiana newspaper, notified law enforcement that it had received an emailed bomb threat listing five targets, including an elementary school, movie theater, and grocery store. An agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation said investigators tracked the IP address associated with the email’s creation to Fortner’s home.

Law enforcement arrested Fortner and charged her with intimidation and terroristic threatening.

“This series of bomb threats shook the sense of safety that all of our children, teachers, and families deserve—and are especially egregious coming from an adult trusted to educate our children,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, Zachary A. Myers.

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Probe reveals Fortner’s web searches before second threat

On the day of the first threat, FBI agents and Crawford County Sheriff’s deputies interviewed Fortner at her home and executed a search warrant, where they seized a phone and other devices, officials said.

Court documents indicate the FBI performed a digital forensic examination of Fortner’s phone on Jan. 30 and found searches for the following:

  • “Egyptian man names”

  • “Ramesses II”

  • “”

  • “Crawford county sheriff’s department”

  • “how do I contact wdrb news”

  • “WAVE 3 new text number”

  • “Crawford county high school”

On Fortner’s laptop, FBI agents found searches for:

Before entering her guilty plea, Fortner repeatedly denied knowledge of the bomb threats during interviews with law enforcement, officials said.

Following prison time, U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker also sentenced Fortner to three years of probation, the first two months of which will be on house arrest.

Fake threats cause real chaos

“Swatting” is making a hoax call to law enforcement to deliberately cause a large police or SWAT team response.

Sometimes, an individual does it to single out someone specific, but the calls can also be done in waves as a trend to seemingly random targets. Last year, USA TODAY identified at least 30 hoax threats about a shooting or other violence at schools over the span of one week.

In cases where a member of the local community is responsible for the threat, it is often a teenager or young adult disgruntled with the school, attempting to pull a prank or get out of a test. In other instances, hoax threats come from malicious outside parties with no connection to the community.

False reports of violence can traumatize students and faculty, officials said, and they put a heavy strain on law enforcement and school resources.

Swatting threats can also pose a serious risk of injury. In 2017, California resident Tyler Barriss reported a fake hostage situation after arguing with another gamer playing “Call of Duty.” He gave the address of an innocent, unrelated person who police ended up fatally shooting during their response. Barriss was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Making a threat, whether through social media, email, or any other format, is a federal crime punishable by up to five years in federal prison, the FBI said. People can also face state or local charges.

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This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Former Indiana substitute teacher guilty of sending hoax bomb threats

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