MILWAUKEE – A 20-year-old grocery store clerk who authorities say amused himself by posting prank Internet warnings of terrorist attacks against NFL stadiums was arrested Friday on federal charges that could bring five years behind bars.
Jake J. Brahm was accused of writing that radioactive “dirty bombs” would be detonated this weekend at seven football stadiums. He admitted posting the same threat about 40 times on various Web sites between September and Wednesday, authorities said.
The Wauwatosa man surrendered to federal authorities and appeared in court in Milwaukee later in the day.
Brahm was charged with making a terrorist threat over the Internet, which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine.
U.S. Magistrate Patricia Gorence released Brahm without bail, citing his spotless record and strong community ties. She prohibited him from using the Internet or traveling outside Wisconsin and New Jersey, where his lawyer said he plans to make a court appearance.
When reporters asked him for comment after the hearing, Brahm smiled and laughed but said nothing.
Brahm’s attorney, Patrick Knight, said after the hearing that his client was shocked by the way the threats were received. He described Brahm as quiet and gentle and said he had not seen anything to indicate Brahm meant any real harm.
“When you’re a 20-year-old, and you roll a snowball, and the next thing you know, it’s as big as a house rolling down a hill, it surprises you a bit,” Knight said.
Richard Ruminski, the FBI agent in charge of the Milwaukee office, said Brahm thought posting the threats would be funny.
“As I understand it, Mr. Brahm had put out this threat thinking it was so preposterous that no one would take it seriously,” Ruminski said. “Unfortunately, he was wrong.”
The warnings briefly set off a scare this week, before federal authorities announced the warnings were a hoax.
Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber said Brahm had bragged to friends about his actions.
One of the threats, dated Oct. 12, appeared on the Web site “The Friend Society,” which links to various online forums and off-color cartoons. Its author, identified in the message as “javness,” said that trucks would deliver radiological bombs Sunday to stadiums in Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Cleveland, Oakland, Calif., and the New York City area, and that Osama bin Laden would claim responsibility.