EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 12, 2013

Boy, 12, admits to sending police to celebrities' homes

By Andrew Blankstein
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

---- — LOS ANGELES — A 12-year-old who allegedly made prank calls to police, sending officers rushing to sites that included the homes of actor Ashton Kutcher and singer Justin Bieber, has admitted to the allegations, authorities said Monday.

The boy, who is not being identified because of his age, was charged by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office in February with four felony counts of making false bomb threats and computer intrusion.

His admission before Juvenile Court Judge Christina L. Hill on Monday was to two felony counts: making false bomb threats and computer intrusion counts related to “swatting.” A misdemeanor was added to the juvenile petition Monday: falsely reporting an emergency in connection to a call at the home of Bieber.

The two other felony counts and the misdemeanor are expected to be dismissed at sentencing. Authorities said those felony counts and the misdemeanor can factor into the judge’s decision in sentencing and in setting restitution to victims in the case, which include the celebrities and law-enforcement agencies, among them the LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Sentencing has yet to be set and Hill accepted a petition to transfer the case for sentencing to the county where the boy currently resides. Sources familiar with the case said the youth is from Riverside County.

The LAPD investigated the case with the Long Beach Police Department and FBI. Authorities said investigators have strong evidence linking the boy to several incidents involving calls or electronic messages that were sent to police and prompted a tactical response including call-outs of SWAT officers, hence the term “swatting.”

In addition to Kutcher and Bieber, the boy targeted several other victims, including local businesses, LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said at the time of the arrest. Investigators do not believe that Miley Cyrus, whose residence also was targeted in a “swatting” hoax, was part of the boy’s alleged pranks.

In one of the incidents, on Oct. 10, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies received a report claiming a gunman had fired shots and was threatening to harm police when they showed up. The message was received through a TTY device typically used by the deaf to type text over the telephone.

Unaware it was Bieber’s residence, deputies arrived in force. They searched Bieber’s residence and interviewed people on the property, who told them no such call had been made and that the pop star was away on tour at the time of the incident. They determined the incident was a hoax.

A week earlier, Los Angeles police dispatched several units and tactical officers to Kutcher’s home on Arrowhead Drive after they received a report through a TTY device; it supposedly was from a woman who said she was hiding in a closet because there was a man with a gun inside her residence, according to sources familiar with the case.

But after interviewing workers who were briefly held at gunpoint at the actor’s home, as well as contacting Kutcher himself, LAPD investigators determined the incident also was contrived.