Autistic Northern Ireland teenager escapes jail over US bomb hoaxes and murder threats
The 1999 gun massacre Columbine High School among targets
An autistic student, whose schoolboy bomb hoaxes and murder threats caused mayhem and distress across America, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, wept in his mothers arms on Friday after being freed on two years probation.
Belfast Crown Court Judge Sandra Crawford told a now 19-year-old Ben Megarry that his crimes would normally require deterrent and lengthy custodial sentences, but there were a number of mitigating factors in his case, including his age at the time, 15 and the connection between his offending and his undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome.
Judge Crawford, who also order Megarry to completed 70 hours community services, said given these mitigation factors, including a number expert reports, she was prepared to accept this recommendations of the pre-sentence report which found there was a low likelihood of his re-offending and that he did not present a danger of serious harm to the public.
In all Megarry from Harmin Park in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, pleaded guilty to a total of 23 charges in which he made a spate of hoax calls between March and September 2012 to numerous "schools, businesses, public gathering places and airports within the continental United States".
In April the court heard that among his targets as a teenage schoolboy, was Columbine High School - the scene of a "tragic and infamous gun massacre".
Prosecutor Peter Magill revealed that Megarry phoned Columbine on the thirteenth anniversary of the April 1999 shooting, telling the school principal he was not only "going to finish" what the two killers had started, but "he would not be so lucky ... and that he was going to die".