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Man who made hijack threat says he was drunk, angry and stupid

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:19 p.m. HST, Jan 23, 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 the call 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 from a pay phone in Kona because the man had allegedly placed fish guts in his truck.

Hershman's hoax call prompted two Oregon National Guard F-15 fighter jets to escort the flight to Seattle airport. 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 National 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."

In the end, Hershman got the revenge he was seeking against the man, who was detained, Seabright said. "He was essentially in custody because of this phone call," the judge said.

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nitpikker wrote:
he should get some sort of punishment for stupidity. he wasted a lot of time and resources. if he can't pay then...jail time!
on January 23,2014 | 04:49PM
nitpikker wrote:
oops. correction. i passed over the first sentence.
on January 23,2014 | 04:55PM
kuniagirl wrote:
$1300 in SS benefits. And we wonder why SS is going broke. But more to the point, why is someone receiving $1300 homeless? Maybe you have to split rent, but geez
on January 23,2014 | 05:29PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
kunia, lol,so $1300 monthly benefits is jeopardizing social Security? Really? I receive more than that, so I'm breaking SS too. Maybe Hershman earned quite a bit of $$ throughout his working career and contributed moderately in the SS system. We don't know.....do we? And $1300 is only $197 above poverty level. For a resourceful and disciplined person, it'd be enough to survive. However, with substance abuse issues, Hershman could be homeless.
on January 23,2014 | 07:35PM
honopic wrote:
Excellent points. Perhaps kuniagirl will grow wiser with age and perhaps have empathy for people who have to survive on $1300 a month after paying into the system for decades.
on January 24,2014 | 10:23AM
kuniagirl wrote:
Good one, I've been paying into the system for nearly 4 decades myself. The system is now pay as you go and I actually don't think that I will get most of my benefits because I have these 60 years losers to support. In fact, I will probably have to work much longer than I would want to because relying on SS is foolish. So I will not be retiring at 60 like some people. And yes, I don't have much empathy for drunks who "retire" at 60 and have no more productive impulse in their lives than to waste my taxpayer dollars even more by making crank calls. If you do, please feel free to pay my payroll taxes.
on January 28,2014 | 10:18PM
kuniagirl wrote:
HELLO, the guy is 60!!!!!!!! NOT 62, not 65. So yes, a nation of 60 year olds collecting SS will jeopardize SS. I suspect there is an element of "disability" in his collecting SS, probably due to his alcoholism, stupidity, or a combination. I love your comment about $1300 only being enough for the resourceful and disciplined, but not those with substance abuse issues. Are you suggesting he should get more because of his self inflicted infirmity?
on January 28,2014 | 10:14PM
false wrote:
I bet he'll remember next time.
on January 24,2014 | 08:11AM
Publicbraddah wrote:
Drunk, angry, and stupid. Seems like he covered all the bases on this one. 18 months in federal prison should sober him up.
on January 24,2014 | 12:04PM
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