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Ottawa Teen Accused Of 'Swatting' Could Faces Charges In Florida

06/16/2015 02:55 EDT | Updated 06/16/2016 05:59 EDT
Benjamin Howell via Getty Images
OTTAWA - An Ottawa teen who allegedly exacted online revenge on victims across North America by impersonating them as he summoned police to bogus crises has pleaded not guilty in youth court.

The youth, now 17, is on trial for "swatting," a practice where emergency services or police tactical units — also known as SWAT teams — are called out through hijacked online accounts or phone numbers.

The trail of cyber chaos wound up being tracked by several police forces, including the FBI in the United States.

He originally faced 60 charges, including causing mischief and conveying false information with intent to alarm, but the Crown says it is only pursuing 34 counts as authorities in Florida are going to mount their own case.

Prosecutor Kerry McVey delivered a lengthy opening statement describing the Crown's case, which will include young witnesses from California, Florida, Laval, Que., and Milton, Ont.

The 17-year-old cannot be named under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. On Tuesday, he sat in the courtroom typing at a computer, dressed in a grey suit.

McVey described a chilling pattern where the accused would allegedly target different individuals that he came into contact with either online, or in one case, at school.

Sometimes they were people he was exacting revenge on, sometimes the alleged crimes appeared to be done for kicks.

"I have guns pointed at your heads catch me if you can," he allegedly tweeted to police in Laval, Que.

In the fall of 2013, McVey said the teen got into a dispute with a peer at an Ottawa-area high school. Eventually, the other teen discovered that his personal information and that of his parents had been posted on an online site geared towards hackers.

Soon afterward, an email death threat was made from the targeted teen's email account to the school principal.

"That of course led the police to his home where he was found asleep in his bed, at which point he was arrested and brought to the station in the back of a cruiser," McVey told Ontario Justice Mitch Hoffman.

"He's ultimately interviewed and released, once it was confirmed that his email had been 'spoofed.'

But the torment didn't end there. Several months later, a bomb threat against is called against the school by the same teen victim's home phone number.

The same scenario unfolded in other cases — notably, in Stockton, California near the state capital of Sacramento.

In the California case, a family endured months of online harassment, where their personal information was posted online.

"[The witness] will describe numerous items being sent to his home, including pizzas totalling thousands of dollars and ultimately the SWAT team...after he called police and indicated that hostages had been taken at his address," said McVey.

"Days after that, a bomb threat is then called in from [the witness's] school, where the caller indicated that the caller was [the witness]."

The accused also allegedly began harassing a neighbour of the California teen.

"[He] had the swat team sent to his home a number of times. Your honour will hear a call dated April 14, 2014, where the caller indicates that he lives at [the teen's] address and that his mother is on the ground bleeding and he believes she's dead."

Swatting events the accused is alleged to have committed also happened in Calgary, Milton, Ont. and Laval. Incidents in Melbourne, Florida wound up getting the attention of the FBI, and McVey said they were able to track an IP address to the Ottawa teen's home.

Some of the "swatting" occurred via Twitter, while others were telephoned in to authorities. The teen is also alleged to have taunted police online through his Twitter account.

The Crown will be left with the task of proving that the Ottawa teen is the same person who engaged in the swatting. McVey said they will rely on video, audio and forensic computer analysis during the case.

His lawyer, Joshua Clarke, has said his client denies all wrongdoing.

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