(November 22, 2018 / JNS) An American Israeli who was sentenced by a Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday to 10 years in prison for phoning in thousands of bomb threats to U.S. Jewish community centers and other locations.
“M,” a 20-year-old man with autism and a brain tumor whose name has been withheld by gag order, was found by Judge Tzvi Gurfinkel to be cognizant of the difference between right and wrong, and responsible for his actions despite his disabilities.
The sentence, which comes with a 60,000 NIS fine, is three years longer than the seven years requested by the prosecution.
The judge said that he would have sentenced a convict without autism to 17 years for the same crime, but that it is “impossible to ignore the severity of the defendant’s actions.”
Upon hearing the judgment, the defendant’s father yelled, “He has autism! He is sick!” and was forcibly removed from the courtroom.
The father called the case a conspiracy and chastised the court for failing to investigate the fact that all the threats were allegedly paid for by unnamed individuals around the world.
M’s attorney, Yoram Sheftel, criticized the court for the severity of its sentencing. “A justice system which takes pity on terrorists, not surprisingly, is cruel to a person with autism,” said Sheftel.
During sentencing hearings last month, the defense brought in Na’ama Lerner, community outreach director of Bizchut, the Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities, who recommended that M be placed in a psychiatric facility. However, the prosecution noted that M continued to attempt to phone in bomb threats from prison and therefore posed too serious a threat to place him in such a facility.
In June, M was found guilty of hundreds of counts of extortion, publishing false information that caused panic, computer offenses and money-laundering among other charges.
He was found to have placed approximately 2,000 threatening phone calls to Jewish schools and community centers in the United States from 2015 to 2017, as well as to airlines, airports, malls, police stations in America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
He also offered extortion services through an online black market and attempted to extort Delaware State Senator Ernesto Lopez.
Results of his threats include the scrambling of fighter jets, fuel dumps and emergency landings of airplanes and school evacuations, including a situation in which he threatened to murder children he claimed to be holding hostage.