Facebook pix spat sparks Philadelphia plane bomb hoax

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 07, 2012 1:00 PM
Facebook pix spat sparks Philadelphia plane bomb hoax

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A man avenging his girlfriend over a questionable Facebook photograph was charged on Friday with falsely reporting explosives aboard a plane that was ordered to return to Philadelphia Airport, authorities said.

Kenneth Smith Jr., 26, was charged with using a telephone to convey false information about the woman's former boyfriend, who was a passenger aboard the US Airways flight from Philadelphia to Dallas on Thursday.

Shortly after the plane had departed, it was ordered back to Philadelphia when police received a call that the former boyfriend, Christopher Shell, 29, was carrying a "liquid explosive" on board.

No dangerous materials were found and the incident was soon deemed to be a hoax, authorities said.

"Smith stated that his motive for doing so was to avenge Person 1's (Shell) ex-girlfriend of whom Person 1 had posted a compromising picture on Facebook," said an FBI affidavit.

"It is the kind of photo that could incense a boyfriend," Smith's lawyer, William Brennan, told reporters after his afternoon appearance in U.S. District Court, declining to further describe the photograph.

Federal Magistrate Henry Perkin ordered Smith released on his own recognizance on the condition that he keep his job as a restaurant cook, not move from his Philadelphia address, or seek a passport, and stay away from Shell and firearms.

Smith, who appeared in court wearing a green prison jumpsuit, his wrists cuffed in front of him, could face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 and possible restitution, said the Patricia Hartman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office. He will be arraigned at a later date.

"I think my client, who is a stand-up guy, is frankly very embarrassed," Brennan told reporters.

While not charged in plane incident, Shell was arrested when he finally arrived in Dallas on an outstanding warrant of marijuana possession.

Shell, who now lives in Philadelphia and turned 29 on Thursday, was taken off the plane for questioning, but once cleared was allowed to fly to Dallas on a later plane.

(Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Leslie Gevirtz)