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Swatting & When Pranks Become Criminal

child arrested for Criminal Charges fo Pranks
October 28, 2019 | Written by Dan Margolis

When a prank goes too far, there’s a real possibility of facing criminal charges as a juvenile or adult. This is especially true when a prank interferes with emergency responders’ activities and puts others’ safety at risk. Swatting is a dangerous practice that checks both of these boxes. It involves calling 911 and reporting a disturbance at a target’s home, in the hopes that the police will send a SWAT response team. The results can be deadly. This was the case when a young Ohio resident sent a SWAT team to an innocent person’s house, who was subsequently killed by the police.

If you or a family member is facing criminal charges in Cleveland or the surrounding area for a prank that got out of hand, an Ohio criminal defense lawyer can help. But you need to move fast. Call the Law Office of Daniel M. Margolis, LLC today at (216) 533-9533 for a free case consultation.

When Pranks Get Out of Hand, People Can Get Hurt

In 2017, three young men in different parts of the country made decisions that led to an innocent life being lost and serious criminal penalties. Casey Viner of North College Hill, Ohio, got into an argument with Shane Gaskill of Wichita, Kansas, while playing the online game, “Call of Duty.” The tensions between the two escalated and spilled over onto their Twitter accounts.

Viner threatened to call a SWAT team to Gaskill’s house. Gaskill replied, “bring it on,” and provided an address. Viner then contacted Tyler Barriss, a part-time swatter for hire. Gaskill had provided Viner a phony address, so when Barriss called the Wichita police, they showed up at the residence of an unrelated third party, Andrew Finch.

According to witness accounts, Finch walked outside of his home and was immediately confronted by the police–who believed they had a crisis on their hands. The incident tragically ended with Andrew Finch being shot by police, killing him instantly.

Swatting Can Be a State Felony or Federal Crime

Federal Prosecutors charged the boys with dozens of criminal counts. Gaskill was initially charged with obstruction of justice, wire fraud, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. But he reached a plea agreement with the prosecutors for deferred prosecution of his case.

Viner was charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to make false reports, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 15 months in prison and two years’ probation, including a ban on playing video games.

Barriss received much harsher treatment because of his alleged involvement in several other bomb threats, and evidence that he ran a swatting business. He was charged in federal court with providing false information, cyberstalking, threatening to kill another or damage property by fire, making interstate threats, conspiracy, and wire fraud. He also faced involuntary manslaughter charges in Kansas and charges of causing false alarm in California. Ultimately, he was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

Call A Criminal Defense Lawyer Right Away

Nobody needs to get hurt for you to face felony charges for swatting or other pranks. Making false reports, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, and interstate threats can all stem from a malicious prank.

If you or a loved one is being investigated for swatting or for actions relating to a prank, you should get legal help as soon as possible. To learn more about how to avoid criminal penalties from pranks, call the Law Office of Dan M. Margolis, LLC today at (216) 533-9533 for a free case evaluation.

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