Christopher Shell had a pretty terrible day yesterday. First, his Dallas-bound plane was turned around in midair after someone phoned in a bomb threat. When the plane landed in Philadelphia, he was taken into federal custody because the caller had said he was the one carrying liquid explosives. When it became clear the whole thing was a hoax, the 29-year-old was arrested again upon landing at DFW, this time for outstanding warrants for drug possession.
But the whole thing was not, as first reported, a hilarious birthday prank. It seems instead that the bomb threat was simply a brilliant revenge plot. According to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent in federal court, Shell is claiming that "his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend 'Kenny' were responsible for making the phone call." He showed officers text messages showing he and his ex had argued about Kenny. The two men had had run-ins in the past, he explained.
They found and arrested Kenny, aka Kenneth W. Smith, Jr., at work. During an interview with the FBI, Smith explained that on Wednesday night, he and others had cooked up the plan to call the Philadelphia Airport Police and tell them Shell was carrying drugs through the airport. He and an unidentified person decided later that telling police Shell had a bomb would be even better, so the next morning he went to a pay phone and did exactly that, using the alias George Michaels.
"Smith stated his motive for doing so was to 'avenge' (Shell)'s ex-girlfriend, of whom (Shell) had posted a compromising picture on Facebook."
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Smith is charged with "violating federal law by knowingly engaging in conduct with intent to convey false and misleading information, and doing so via a telephone, an instrument of commerce," according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Ignoring that whole federal-prison thing, though, Smith's revenge plot worked brilliantly. Shell did, after all, have a terrible flight, get questioned by the FBI, and wind up in jail on drug charges.
We'll call it a draw.