US man charged in hoax that led to plane's recall

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Associated Press

Posted on September 7, 2012 at 3:32 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man angry that his girlfriend's ex posted a compromising photo of her on Facebook took revenge, making a hoax call to police that set off a terrorism scare and pulled the former beau off an airplane at gunpoint, authorities say. In the end, both men were arrested.

The new boyfriend, Kenneth W. Smith Jr., was arrested Friday on charges of making a hoax threat to police in Philadelphia, who recalled a Dallas-bound flight and marched Christopher Shell off the plane Thursday.

The episode led to Shell's own arrest on drug warrants after he finally reached Texas to celebrate his 29th birthday.

On Friday, both Shell and Smith posted bond.

Shell declined to comment. Smith's lawyer, Bill Brennan, described his client as "embarrassed" by the consequences of the alleged threat.

"My client is very, very sobered by the amount of attention this has received," Brennan said after Smith's initial appearance in federal court in Philadelphia. "He's not very happy about it."

Passengers weren't very happy about the scare that rerouted US Airways Flight 1267 on Thursday morning. They were about 90 miles (145 kilometers) into their trip when the aircraft turned around.

After landing at Philadelphia International Airport, heavily armed law enforcement officers boarded the plane and removed Shell. During questioning, he told authorities of the romantic feud, which involved hostile text messages with his ex and encounters with Smith, according to a federal affidavit.

Shell also gave officers the name of Smith's workplace. Upon arrival, authorities said Smith acknowledged calling airport police from a payphone to say that Shell was carrying liquid explosives.

Smith said he did it to "avenge" his new girlfriend, because Shell had posted a compromising picture of her on Facebook, the affidavit said.

"It is the kind of photo that would incense a boyfriend," said Brennan, Smith's lawyer.

Smith, 26, of Philadelphia, was charged with conveying false information that interfered with aviation and using an instrument of commerce — the phone — to do so.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and possible restitution.

Philadelphia police on Thursday had stressed Shell was blameless for the airplane scare. He continued his travel later in the day to Texas, where he planned to celebrate his birthday with friends and family. But authorities arrested him when he arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Collin County authorities said Shell had outstanding warrants for two drug-possession charges — less than 2 ounces (56.7 grams) of marijuana and less than 28 grams of a controlled substance.

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Associated Press videographer John Mone in Dallas contributed to this report.

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