A teenager in British Columbia, imprisoned since December 2014, was sentenced to 16 months in jail and eight months of community supervision yesterday after admitting to a rash of swattings, threats and other abuses across Canada and the United States.
The young boy terrorized gamers—mostly women—online with fake calls to far-off police departments claiming grandiose threats of hostage situations and bombings, all from the comfort of his home in a suburb about a half hour outside of Vancouver.
Originally charged with nearly four dozen counts, the boy pleaded guilty to 23 charges in all: nine charges of criminal harassment, eight charges of public mischief, four charges of extortion, one charge of breach of recognizance, and one charge of uttering threats.
The prosecutor also revealed that police have yet to return two computers seized from the boy's house last year because the Coquitlam RCMP's major crimes unit was still investigating the devices for evidence of other potential crimes.
"It is clear that you have reasonably sophisticated computer skills ... [but] you applied those skills to inflict very serious harm on a large number of people"
The teen, now 17, can't be named because he is a young offender, and the names of his victims are subject to a publication ban. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, young offenders can face up to a maximum of two years in prison, but the judge in this case granted the prosecutor's wish of 16 months in custody.
At the hearing, the boy sat behind glass in an enclosed prisoner's box, listening as Judge Patricia Janzen read her reasons for the sentence.
"It is clear that you have reasonably sophisticated computer skills that you could use for your own betterment," Janzen said from the bench. "Instead, you applied those skills to inflict very serious harm on a large number of people."
She later added that, given the boy's intelligence, he could aspire to any job he might want, and implored him to make friends and "reengage with the real world."
Janzen revisited many of the incidents the court heard about in earlier proceedings, detailing the boy's year-long online crime spree during 2014, in which he targeted mainly female gamers who denied follower requests on the game streaming site Twitch.tv.
The judge spoke of how one of the public mischief charges stemmed from fake calls placed to the Anaheim police department in California. He claimed there was a bomb placed near the Space Mountain ride at Disneyland, causing the theme park to close down for a short time. Another public mischief count arose from a bomb threat called into Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC.
He is banned from accessing the internet and must have no contact with his victims
His crime wave knew no borders, and when it came to an end with his arrest on Dec. 5, 2014, he was put behind bars and extensively questioned by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a social worker, who each provided the court with a report delving into the boy's mental state. They concluded he was deeply troubled, haunted by a traumatic childhood in which he was abused by his father and neglected by his mother.
The judge said she had "grave concerns" about the boy going back to live with his mother and brother upon release.
The teen was credited with 219 days in custody, and his sentence now extending until March 2016. He must provide a DNA sample, report to a youth probation officer, and is banned from owning weapons and consuming drugs and alcohol. He is also banned from accessing the internet and must have no contact with his victims.
Outside court after the hearing, the boy's mother told reporters that she hoped the time in jail would help him learn a lesson.
"He's trying to be as happy as he can," she said. "He's making friends and he's playing sports which is a big change."