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Intrastate Bomb Threat Subject to Federal Law
Description Appeals court affirmed the conviction of an AOL user who sent a bomb threat to an AOL staff member in the same state. This violated the federal statute against threatening communication in interstate commerce. The fact that the message was transmitted within one state did not matter because phone lines are in interstate commerce.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words E-mail Threat; Federal Jurisdiction
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Kammersell logged on to AOL from his home computer in Utah and sent his girlfriend, who worked at the AOL service center in Utah, a bomb threat, hoping that the threat would cause AOL to cease operations, so she could leave work early for a date. Kammersell was convicted of transmitting a threatening communication in interstate commerce and sentenced to four months in prison and twenty-four months supervised release. He appealed, stating that since the transmission occurred within one state, federal law did not apply.
Decision Affirmed. The threat actually traveled by phone from his computer in Utah to the AOL server in Virginia, then back to his girlfriend's terminal in Utah, so it was an interstate transmission. Whether this went by e-mail or by AOL's "instant message"service is irrelevant. The telephone lines are in interstate commerce.
Citation U.S. v. Kammersell, 196 F.3d 1137 (10th Cir., 1999)

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