A Philadelphia pizza cook who called in a bogus airplane threat to get back at a romantic rival over a Facebook photo has been sentenced to 15 months in prison.
Kenneth Smith must also send written apologies to 38 passengers who watched as armed agents stormed the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport last fall.
The Philadelphia man admitted calling in a fake report about explosives on a Dallas-Fort Worth-bound airplane in September. The hoax caused the plane to be diverted back to Philadelphia International Airport.
Federal prosecutors recommended between 12 and 18 months in prison for Smith, calling the 26-year-old a very lucky man "because, amazingly, no one was hurt that day. . .Smith's crime unnecessarily put the lives of many people in danger."
Smith pleaded guilty in January to malicious false information about an explosive, and false information and hoaxes. He agreed then to write an apology letter to every person on that plane
Smith admitted he made the call to Philly Airport Police knowing that the information about Christopher Shell boarding a plane for Dallas with liquid explosives on him was false.
Smith already agreed to pay restitution and write an apology letter to every passenger who was on Flight 1267 when it was delayed. He also agreed to reimburse the emergency response costs.
The plane was turned around shortly after taking off from Philadelphia International Airport.
Sixty-nine passengers and five crew members were on the plane. In a strange twist, the incident happened on Shell's 29th birthday.
Smith’s reasoning for the hoax, according to federal prosecutors, was to “avenge” a woman who was at the time identified as Shell’s ex-girlfriend and Smith’s current girlfriend. Smith was angry over a compromising photo of his girlfriend that Shell had posted on Facebook.
During sentencing, U.S. Judge Gene Pratter told Smith he should spend more time looking in the mirror and less time looking at Facebook.
The day of the hoax, Shell was removed from the airplane in handcuffs. After investigators sorted out what had happened, Shell later wound up making it to Dallas where we was arrested on two outstanding warrants, police said. NBCDFW spoke to Shell in October about the plane hoax and how it derailed his career.
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