JCC hoax bomber indicted for additional threats phoned from prison

20-year-old, who has autism and a brain tumor, also accused of attempting to escape from police custody

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

An American-Israeli Jewish teenager, accused of making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats in the United States and elsewhere, is escorted by police as he leaves a courtroom in Rishon Lezion on March 23, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)
An American-Israeli Jewish teenager, accused of making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats in the United States and elsewhere, is escorted by police as he leaves a courtroom in Rishon Lezion on March 23, 2017. (AFP/Jack Guez)

The Tel Aviv District Court issued a fresh batch of indictments against a young American-Israeli man who has already been convicted of hoaxing US Jewish community centers and other targets around the world with thousands of bomb threats, charging him Thursday with making additional threats from prison and for attempting to escape police custody.

The 20-year-old, M., whose full name is being withheld by a gag order in Israel, has been diagnosed with autism and also suffers from a brain tumor, which his parents say has further impacted his behavior. The Tel Aviv District Court acknowledged his medical condition, but concluded in its June conviction that M. was nevertheless responsible for his actions.

In the new set of charges, M. is accused of collecting phone numbers of schools, malls and hotels on slips of paper he hid in his cell. He managed to acquire the phone access of one of his fellow inmates and use it to call in three threats on the morning of April 29, the indictment said.

Two were to a pair of elementary schools in central Israel where staff who answered were informed that a bomb had been planted inside a backpack in the building and that a bloodbath was imminent, the cyber department of the Tel Aviv District Attorney alleged. The schools were evacuated and police along with sappers were called to the scene to search the premises for explosive devices that turned out to never have existed.

M. also allegedly placed a nearly identical call to an Eilat hotel, where he told a security guard who picked up the phone that a bomb had been planted somewhere inside by an employee of the hotel. The hotel was evacuated; a search of the building by authorities turned up nothing.

M.’s father, G. — whose identity is also barred from publication — referred to the new indictments as part of a broader “lynching” the Israeli legal system has been carrying out against M., who he insists is not responsible for his actions.

An Israeli-American teenager, accused of making bomb threats in the United States and elsewhere, in a courtroom in Rishon Lezion on March 23, 2017. (Flash90)

“The fact that he made so many calls and continued doing them from jail only further proves that he doesn’t understand,” G. told The Times of Israel.

The Tel Aviv District Court also indicted M. for an alleged attempt to escape police custody following an examination at a Probation Service office in Ashkelon last June.

According to Thursday’s charges, M. put on four pairs of socks the morning of the incident to prevent the cuffs from tightening around his legs. After the exam he was placed back in a prison van to be transferred back to jail.

Shortly after the prison vehicle began its journey to Ramle’s Nitzan prison, M. managed to uncuff his legs and began to furiously kick the back door. The officers pulled over on Route 4 and opened the door to check on the inmate, at which point, the indictment alleged, M. attempted to jump out of the vehicle, but was blocked by the guards. M. was cuffed again, placed in a second vehicle, as the back door of the first had sustained significant damage, and transferred back to Nitzan.

G. denied the court’s characterization of the incident as an attempted escape, and claimed that prior to entering the van, M. had witnessed one of the prison guards assaulting his father, who was filming the officers.

Footage of the encounter that G. provided to The Times of Israel shows M. being led by three guards to a van that pulls up as they walk outside following the examination. Before M. is ushered into the van, one of the officers chastises G. for filming.

M., appearing calm while cuffed, is placed inside the van and the door is slid shut. The same officer then returns to G., again telling him not to film. M. is seen appearing to make contact with the father before the film ends.

G. said the guard proceeded to assault him as his son watched through the car window. Witnessing the incident caused M. to have an “autistic attack” in which he kicked the door until it broke, G. claimed.

M. was found guilty in June of thousands of counts of extortion, publishing false information that caused panic, computer offenses, and money laundering, among other charges.

Authorities say he made thousands of threatening calls, mostly to community centers and schools in the US, from January to March 2017, using an online calling service that disguised his voice and allowed him to hide his identity. He also targeted hundreds of airlines and airports, malls, and police stations, in the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia and Britain, and tried to extort Republican State Senator Ernesto Lopez from Delaware.

G and S, the parents of alleged bomb hoaxer M, at their home in Ashkelon, April 26, 2017 (DH/Times of Israel staff)

His threats caused fighter jets to scramble, planes to dump fuel and make emergency landings, schools to evacuate, and numerous other chaotic consequences. In some cases, he allegedly threatened to execute children he claimed to be holding hostage.

M. has admitted to making some 2,000 fake bomb threat calls to hospitals, airlines, schools and various Jewish institutions out of boredom.

The hoax bomb threats, which came in the midst of a far-right surge in the US, sent a chill through Jewish communities and raised fears of anti-Semitism.

His lawyer told Israeli news outlets in June that he had attempted suicide at least five times while in prison, since his arrest last March. Earlier this year, he briefly escaped police custody after a hearing at a Jerusalem District Court.

In addition to facing a possibly long jail sentence in Israel, M. has been indicted on hate crimes charges by the US Department of Justice that would carry a hefty prison term there.

His sentencing hearing in Israel is slated for October 29.

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