Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, knew his bill to make using fake bombs in a hoax threat would be accepted by lawmakers. He had to pitch it twice, because it was initially rejected over ambiguous language contained in the original legislation. What Hagedorn didn't know, however, was how quickly his measure would be used by law enforcement. The law, passed during the 201o legislative session, will be used prosecute its first offender, the Idaho Statesman reported Tuesday.
The report from the Statesman says that a transgendered female planted four fake pipe bombs in her mobile home before setting fire to it. The woman, Catherine Carlson of Payette, told authorities she set the blaze to bring attention to her plight as a transgendered individual. She is reportedly being charged with felony arson, as well as using a hoax destructive device. Hagedorn's law formally went into effect on July 1, 2010, less than two weeks before the woman was charged with the offenses.
Hagedorn, who sponsored the bill, said it is a perfect example of how he intended the law to be used. "We had a hole in state law that didn't allow for proper prosecution of offenders," Hagedorn told IdahoReporter.com. "Before this, if someone planted a hoax bomb, he would have only likely been guilty of trespassing at the most."
During testimony on the legislation, the Meridian Republican said that an incident in the Treasure Valley in 2009 prompted him to bring the plan before the Legislature. Boise officials evacuated more than 2,000 people at the Boise Towne Square Mall after finding five suspicious packages in the mall. The complex was shut down for 6-7 hours as first responders, including firemen, police, medics, and SWAT teams investigated the packages. The mall was safely cleared after the Boise Police Department (BPD) bomb-sniffing dogs confirmed no actual bombs were on the property. According to BPD, the packages found in the mall were hoax devices designed specifically to look like actual explosive ordinances.
Hagedorn said the idea behind the bill is to keep safety officials - firemen and police officers - available to the public, rather than working on fake bomb plots. "Fake bombs take first responders away from their other duties and harm public safety," said Hagedorn. "This is a great opportunity to let people know that the law changed as of July 1."
Under Hadegorn’s plan, those who use fake bombs with criminal intent would be punishable by a felony with up to five years in prison and a fine up to $25,000. That sentence would mirror the current penalty for making or calling in a bomb threat. “People need to know this is no different than calling in a bomb threat when there is no bomb, or yelling fire in a crowded theatre when there is no fire,” Hagedorn concluded.