A former Wisconsin grocery clerk must serve six months in federal prison for making bogus Internet postings warning of terrorist attacks against NFL stadiums, a judge ruled Thursday.
"People have to know they can't go around posting these things on the Internet," U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares said, adding that it scares the public and can expose weaknesses in security responses.
Jake Brahm, 22, must also serve six months under house arrest following his prison term, but a fine was waived.
He faced a prison term of six to 12 months under federal sentencing guidelines. His lawyer had sought probation.
Brahm said the postings were not meant to be taken seriously and were at a Web site, www.4chan.org, that is "outrageous."
"I would never take anything posted on 4chan as fact," he said.
"The story I wrote was not intended to be malicious and I didn't intend to deceive anyone," Brahm told the judge, at times stumbling during a seven-minute statement.
Brahm said he cooperated immediately when approached by police at the grocery store. "I tried my best to undo the harm I caused," he said.
A federal prosecutor agreed, but argued that Brahm was thrilled when police arrived, tossing his clipboard to the ground, shouting, "Yes!" and raising his arms in celebration.
Brahm intended "to create a stir," reposting the same message over 40 times during a four-week period in fall 2006, contended Assistant U.S. Attorney L. Judson Welle.
When another Web site visitor reposted the message on more mainstream sites and the news media learned of the ensuing investigation and emergency response, Welle said Brahm bragged in a posting, "This is the most epic win ever."
Welle called much of 4chan.org's content "inane," saying it ranged from running jokes to images of kittens, pornography and violence.
Brahm's lawyer, Walter A. Lesnevich, urged leniency for an "unsophisticated kid" who was immersed in the 4chan.org culture.
"There's this odd community of people who go on this Web site. He's the poster boy of what can go wrong," Lesnevich told the judge.
Brahm's posting, repeated from September to Oct. 18, 2006, said the targeted stadiums were in Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland, Cleveland and New York City. He admitted that the reference to New York City was intended to indicate Giants Stadium, in East Rutherford, N.J., where the New York Jets played the Detroit Lions that day.
The posting added that the stadium explosions would be praised by Osama bin Laden as "America's Hiroshima" and spark global conflicts. The message said that bombs would be delivered by trucks and that "the death toll will approach 100,000 from the initial blasts and countless other fatalities will later occur as result from radioactive fallout."
Brahm must repay $18,000 to the Cleveland Browns and $8,750 to the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, which operates Giants Stadium. Welle said other stadiums had extra costs because of the hoax, but were unable to complete their paperwork in time for the sentencing.
Brahm, of Wauwatosa, Wis., had pleaded guilty in February to willfully conveying false information that the stadiums would be attacked by terrorists with weapons of mass destruction and "radiological dispersal devices."
The charge is part of the Patriot Act. Lesnevich said that although the law is vague and may one day be repealed, they agreed to the plea because it gave Brahm a chance for probation.
Brahm is now working in his father's wood shop, the lawyer said.