MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 19-year-old Texas man has been sentenced for calling in multiple false bomb threats, sending harassing text messages and making “swatting” phone calls to a Minnesota high school earlier this year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger says Zachary Lee Morgenstern, of Houston, Texas, will spend 41 months in prison – nearly 3.5 years – in prison for his crimes.
According to court documents, Morgenstern made a series of threatening communications to a number of victims in the Marshall area between October 2014 and May 2015. Attorneys say the teen used anonymous email addresses, Twitter handles and internet-based phone accounts to threaten to kill an officer and her family, use explosives to blow up a school and use guns to shoot up a school.
“It’s good to have closure in this matter so we can move on from the disruption in our city and school district caused by Mr. Morgenstern’s actions,” Marshall Police Chief Rob Yant said.
Court documents allege Morgenstern also instigated several local incidents of “swatting,” the dangerous prank that involves calling in a hostage situation to local authorities with the hopes that a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team responds to the victim’s residence.
Morgenstern was arrested in Texas on May 14, 2015 and taken to Minnesota. He pleaded guilty on Aug. 7, 2015.
“The defendant engaged in a pattern of harassing activity against several victims using the cloak of anonymity afforded by the Internet,” Assistant United States Attorney Timothy C. Rank said. “He wrought emotional havoc and caused the needless expenditure of public funds to respond to his destructive emails, tweets, and phone calls. Mr. Morgenstern committed his crimes in part because he thought he would not get caught. Because of the excellent investigative work of the FBI, he was wrong, and the sentence today sends a strong message that there are serious consequences for this type of behavior.”
Morgenstern’s sentence will be followed by 3 years of supervised release.