PHOENIX – An Arizona man convicted of endangering his 16-year-old nephew's life by sending him into a busy intersection dressed in sheets and a scarf and carrying a fake grenade launcher in a terrorism hoax was sentenced Thursday to two weeks in jail.
Michael David Turley, 40, had faced penalties ranging from probation to more than five years in prison after a jury found him guilty in June of endangerment and knowingly giving a false impression in the July 2012 mock terrorism scenario at a Phoenix intersection.
No one was injured but authorities say Turley could have gotten his nephew killed.
Superior Court Judge Jeanne Garcia said it was unfortunate that Turley didn't tell his nephew to come back into his house rather than go into the streets and carry out the hoax. "It could have been a whole lot worse than it was," she said.
Turley filmed his nephew pointing the plaster replica of a grenade launcher at passing cars. The youth was dressed in a sheet, had a scarf wrapped around his head and made erratic movements while in a crosswalk, prompting motorists to call 911. Turley posted a video of the hoax on YouTube.
Prosecutor Michael Anderson had asked for 100 days of jail time, saying Turley hasn't taken responsibility for his actions, even after a jury found him guilty of two crimes. "He is contesting, to this day, the injustice of all of this," Anderson said.
Turley made a tearful plea to the judge to spare him jail time, often pausing to compose himself, and said he used poor judgment and that he understands the danger he placed his nephew in. He likened his relationship with his nephew to that of a father and son.
He said his arrest has hurt his career in TV and film production and that the case has financially ruined him. "I have most definitely learned something through this," Turley said.
Prosecutors say some motorists who saw the teen with the realistic-looking fake launcher had discussions about whether they should run him over. Still, some recordings of 911 calls also showed that some witnesses assumed the weapon was a fake.
Turley's attorney Brad Rideout had argued the felony case was more like a misdemeanor case in nature and said that those who witnessed the hoax didn't suffer any long-term trauma.
Turley testified at the trial that his video of the hoax was meant to be satirical and that most passing motorists laughed at them. He told jurors he didn't think his actions endangered his nephew.