POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 24, 2014
A Hawaii man who pleaded guilty to falsely reporting a possible airplane hijacking was sentenced Thursday to a year and a half in federal prison.
Timothy David Hershman said in court that he blames his phone call to the FBI on stupidity, anger and alcoholism. "I screwed up really big time, your honor," he said. "I'm really sorry for this."
Hershman was drunk when called the FBI last year saying another man was going to hijack an Alaska Airlines flight, said Alexander Silvert, his public defender. Authorities determined the other man was aboard an Alaska Airlines flight from Kona to Seattle. After questioning him for nearly two hours, authorities deemed the call a hoax.
"He's an alcoholic, and he gets stupid when gets drunk," Silvert said, explaining that Hershman, 60, wanted to get back at a roommate with whom he was feuding. Prosecutors have said Hershman confessed to making the call, which he placed from a pay phone in Kona, because the man had allegedly put fish guts in his truck.
Hershman's hoax call prompted two Oregon National Guard F-15 fighter jets to escort the flight to Seattle. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Nammar filed a motion requesting that Hershman pay about $72,000 to reimburse the government for fuel and other expenses. According to his motion, the Oregon Guard scrambled to escort the commercial plane in a mission that took nearly four hours.
One of Silvert's arguments against reimbursement was that the expenses were "operational costs" similar to "costs a government would incur in sending out law enforcement officers to deal with a bomb threat, a bank robbery, a gambling den or any other criminal activity."
U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright denied the prosecution request Thursday, saying Hershman, who is now homeless and receives $1,300 a month in Social Security benefits, can't afford to pay any restitution. Seabright said the hoax call "had potential serious consequences."
Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Associated Press