By Calvin Palmer
A British man was given a six-month suspended prison sentence today after he made a drunken call to the White House, claiming there was a bomb in Madison Square Gardens.
Thomas Hutchinson, 19, of Sheffield, northern England, made the call on May 10, 2008, during a barbecue.
Prosecutor Stephen Acaster told Sheffield Magistrates Court that the operator pressed a malicious call trace button and the number was tracked to Britain and the message found to be a hoax.
The FBI, U.S. Secret Service, New York City Police Department and counter-terrorism officers in Britain took part in the subsequent investigation.
Defense lawyer Geoff Flemming said Hutchinson, who was 17 at the time, was “a young man of good character” who had gotten drunk and done “something which is breathtakingly silly”.
Flemming added it was unlikely Hutchinson would be a “welcome visitor” to the United States in the future as a result of the conviction.
Hutchinson initially denied the charge when he was interviewed by police but later pleaded guilty.
District Judge Tony Browne said: “One minute’s thoughtlessness by you, one moment of madness, one drunken prank, all had very serious consequences.
“The reaction to a bomb hoax involving central New York is understandably taken initially very seriously.”
The judge added: “The distress and real upset caused to Americans by such a hoax is hard to imagine.”
He also ordered Hutchinson to carry out 250 hours of unpaid community service work and pay £70 ($115) in costs.