Former Northeastern University Employee Arrested for Staging Hoax Explosion
BOSTON – A Texas man has been arrested and charged with allegedly staging a hoax explosion at Northeastern University in Boston in September 2022 and providing law enforcement with materially false and misleading information about the incident.
Jason Duhaime, 45, of San Antonio, was charged with one count of intentionally conveying false and misleading information related to an explosive device and one count of making materially false statements to a federal law enforcement agent. Duhaime was arrested this morning in the Western District of Texas and will appear in federal court in Boston at a later date.
According to the charging documents, Duhaime, who was at the time employed as the New Technology Manager and Director of the Immersive Media Lab (Lab) at Northeastern University, placed a 911 call at approximately 7 p.m. on Sept. 13, 2022, to report that he was injured by “sharp” objects expelled from a plastic case he opened inside the Lab that evening. Specifically, it is alleged that Duhaime told the 911 operator that he and a Northeastern student who was working in the Lab had collected several packages from a mail area earlier that evening and brought them into the Lab. Among the packages were two “Pelican” cases, which Duhaime brought into a storage closet inside the Lab. Duhaime allegedly told the 911 operator that when he opened one of the cases inside the closet, “very sharp” objects flew out of the case and under his shirt sleeves, causing injuries to his arms. It is further alleged that Duhaime also reported that the case contained an anonymous “violent note” directed at the Lab.
The reports and concern about the second unopened “Pelican” case triggered a significant law enforcement response that included, among other things, the assistance of two law enforcement bomb squads, the evacuation of a large portion of Northeastern’s Boston campus. Numerous campus-wide alerts were issued by the Northeastern University Police Department – one of which described an “explosion.”
According to court documents unsealed today, responding local and federal law enforcement observed that the case described by Duhaime to the 911 operator was empty and undamaged. Neither the case nor the letter that Duhaime said was inside the case showed any indication of having been exposed to a forceful or explosive discharge of any type or magnitude. Additionally, the storage closet appeared normal and bomb technicians did not observe any small objects or suspicious debris on the floor or elsewhere.
During subsequent interviews with law enforcement, Duhaime allegedly provided statements about the incident that were consistent with his report to the 911 operator. He expressly denied fabricating his story about the case, the letter and his injuries.
Forensic analysis of one of the computers seized during a Sept. 14, 2022 search of Duhaime’s office at Northeastern University allegedly revealed a word-for-word electronic copy of the letter stored in a backup folder. According to court documents, the metadata associated with this file reflected a “Created Date/Time” of Sept. 13, 2022, at 2:57 p.m. and a “Last Printed Date/Time” of Sept. 13, 2022, at 4:02 p.m.
The charges of intentionally conveying false and misleading information related to an explosive device and making materially false statements to a federal law enforcement agent each provide for a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox; and Michael A. Davis, Vice President of Campus Security and Chief of Police at Northeastern University made the announcement today. This investigation was conducted by the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in cooperation with the Northeastern University Police Department. Valuable assistance was provided by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Field Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason A. Casey of Rollins’ National Security Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.