Teen behind JCC hoax bomb threats briefly escapes custody

Suspect makes a run for it after hearing in Jerusalem District Court, is swiftly apprehended by prison guards

An Israeli-American teenager accused of waging an intimidation campaign of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers in the US and other targets around the world briefly escaped custody Monday after a hearing at the Jerusalem District Court.

The 18-year-old, whose name is barred from publication in Israel by court order, fled after leaving the courthouse and before his return to the detention center where he is being held.

Israel Prisons Service guards grabbed the teen, who only manged to run “a few meters,” according to reports.

Last year, Israel filed a laundry list of charges against the teen, who lives in Ashkelon, including accusations that he had made thousands of bomb threat calls and other violent threats to institutions, schools hospitals and airlines in numerous countries.

Authorities say the teenager made 245 threatening calls, mostly to community centers and schools in the US, from January to March, using an online calling service that disguised his voice and allowed him to hide his identity.

A man brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, under suspicion of Issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions around the world, on March 23, 2017. (Flash90)

His alleged 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.

The threats sent a chill through Jewish communities and raised fears of anti-Semitism.

He was arrested in March 2017 and indicted in Israel and has also been charged in federal court in Orlando, Florida, with 28 counts of making threatening calls and conveying false information to police.

Separately, he was charged with three more counts of making threatening calls, conveying false information and cyberstalking, in an indictment filed in federal court in Athens, Georgia.

The suspect’s parents said he has a brain tumor and is on the autistic spectrum, and that these conditions affected his behavior. In May 2017 his lawyer said during an interview with Channel 10 news that the suspect had tried to kill himself five times within the space of two weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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