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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Oregon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 1, 2018

Portland Man Pleads Guilty to Making False Threats of Terrorism at Two Airports

PORTLAND, Ore. – On Thursday, February 1, 2018, Sonny Donnie Smith, 38, of Clackamas, Oregon, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to making anonymous harassing telephone calls to two airports, in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 223(a)(1)(C). Smith waived indictment by a federal grand jury and pleaded guilty to an information filed by the United States Attorney’s Office.

According to court documents, Smith admitted to making two anonymous telephone calls to security offices at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada and Midland International Air and Space Port in Midland, Texas. In both calls, Smith falsely reported that a family member traveling through the airport was a terrorist. An investigation revealed no real terrorist threat and that Smith made the calls because of a family feud.

“The safety and security of our nation’s airports and travelers are of paramount importance to law enforcement, and we will continue to swiftly and thoroughly investigate all threats of terrorism,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. “False reports intended to harass others waste law enforcement time and resources and will be prosecuted accordingly.”

“Today’s technology makes some believe they can anonymously create chaos to resolve personal grievances. Thanks to the FBI agents and partner agencies who worked this case, Mr. Smith quickly found his harassment was far from anonymous. Whether someone makes a false claim to harass a particular person or more generally to disrupt air travel, they should know the FBI will respond. That requires the use of limited resources, potentially delaying response to other serious incidents and real victims. For this reason, you can expect to be held accountable for your threat - hoax or not,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.

Smith faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison, a $250,000 fine and one year of supervised release. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 10, 2018 before United States District Court Judge Anna J. Brown.

This case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Hannah Horsley, Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Oregon.

Topic(s): 
Counterterrorism
Component(s): 
Updated February 1, 2018