British teenager sentenced for US bomb hoax

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The Independent Online

A British teenager was given a six-month suspended prison sentence today for phoning the White House and claiming there was a bomb in New York.

Thomas Hutchinson, 19, said the call was a drunken prank, but it sparked an international terrorism investigation.

The teenager from Sheffield in northern England acknowledged phoning the White House switchboard on 10 May, 2008, after drinking with friends at a barbecue, and claiming there was a bomb in New York's Madison Square Garden.

Prosecutors said the call was quickly traced and found to be a hoax. But the subsequent investigation involved the US Secret Service, the FBI, the New York Police Department and the police counterterrorism unit in Britain.

Defense lawyer Geoff Flemming said Hutchinson, who was 17 at the time, was "a young man of good character" who had gotten drunk and done "something which is breathtakingly silly."

Judge Tony Browne told Hutchinson his drunken "moment of madness" had had "very serious consequences."

"The distress and real upset caused to Americans by such a hoax is hard to imagine," Browne said.

He also ordered Hutchinson to carry out 250 hours of unpaid community service work and pay 70 pounds ($115) in costs.