25 Years for Swatting
As defined by the Wikipedia article on such:
Swatting is the tricking of any emergency service (via such as a 9-1-1dispatcher) into dispatching an emergency response based on the false report of an on-going critical incident. Episodes range from large to small, from the deployment of bomb squads, SWAT units and other police units and the concurrent evacuations of schools and businesses to a single fabricated police report meant to discredit an individual as a prank or personal vendetta. While it is a misdemeanor or a felony in the USA in and of itself to report any untruth to law enforcement, swatting can cause massive disruption to the civil order and the public peace by the hoaxed deployment of police and other civic resources such as ambulances and fire departments. The term derives from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), a highly specialized type of police unit.
I think I first heard of “swatting” happening to a celebrity. Since I’ve read many an article where someone prank calls and gets a SWAT team rolled out to a celebrity’s home and I’ve always wondered, ‘Why? What does one get out of this?’ because it feels so extreme. I’m all for an elaborate prank but swatting potentially puts people in danger from the swatting victims to the responding officers and, in my opinion, potential victims who may have a real and valid need of such a response from our police forces (hostage situations and the like). If the officers are tied up with the prank call and a real one comes in …. It’s also a serious waste of resources, no?
Lately I’ve been hearing more and more of swatting happening in gaming, people pranking fellow gamers for varied reasons, because they were able to obtain the victims IP address and locate their physical address. I don’t know that it’s always this way but typically it comes from ‘live-streaming’ over a console (correct me if I’m wrong) and the added ‘bonus’, if you will, is that when the cops bust in the room of the live-streaming gamer others can watch as it happens. I find this practice to be especially sick in the disgusting way. The idea of anyone ‘bursting’ into my house with guns drawn and yelling at me and my family to stop or get down or whatever they say, it’s nightmare fuel for me.
I read an article this morning about a 15-year-old in Louisiana who was recently sentenced to 25 years to life in a Federal prison for swatting. He was charged with at least two counts of domestic terrorism for his swatting prank and the Judge didn’t take this lightly. I’m just as shocked at the heavy sentence as I am in agreement that he deserved punishment for his actions, to be held accountable. That long of a sentence seems harsh! Swatting is no joking matter and should be taken seriously, very seriously. We absolutely do need a precedent to send a message that this is wrong and won’t be tolerated. It’s just … it’s just sad all the way around on this one.
What do you guys think? I read a few of the comments on the article about the 15-year-old and the reaction is mixed with some in complete agreement and some in shock at the heavy sentence. I’m both, I think, though 25 years to life feels excessive. Should swatting fall under the general ‘domestic terrorism’ or should it have its own set of charges and punishments? I keep going back and forth, thinking about the age of so many of the purported pranksters and then the potential for extreme disaster, peoples lives at stake, and I don’t know. I don’t see an easy ‘feel good’ answer here. I do see a need to do something, however, and hopefully others will give serious thought to swatting someone in the future.
Editing to add: I went back to the site I linked to for the story of the 15 year old who was charged with domestic terrorism. I saw a headline for an article on something else and, long story short, I’m not sure this is a legit news site? I think this may be the same site that got me some time ago. Gut reaction was to pull my post in case this site is bogus but on the other hand, it’s a talking point.