Suspect in airport hoax released on own recognizance after court hearing

PHILADELPHIA - September 7, 2012

That was part of an affidavit released on Friday after the suspect, Kenneth W. Smith Jr., 26, of Philadelphia, was charged.

According to a statement from the U.S Attorney, Smith violated 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."

Smith appeared in court on Friday afternoon and was released on his own recognizance. He did not have to pay bail, but has a $250,000 detainer. That means, if he violates the terms of his release, he will have to pay.

The judge also forbid Smith from having contact with the man targeted by the hoax, Christopher Shell.

According to a criminal complaint, Smith called the airport on Thursday, and identified himself as "George Michaels." Investigators say he claimed that a passenger on US Airways flight 1267, Christopher Shell, was carrying explosives.

Flight 1267 had already taken off at 7:40 a.m. and had been in the air for about a half hour. Authorities ordered the plane back to Philadelphia.

After the plane landed, Shell was taken in to custody, but soon released.

However, during his interview with law enforcement, Shell allegedly stated his belief that his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend, "Kenny," were responsible for making the phone call.

Text messages on Shell's cell phone reveal recent hostile messages exchanged between him and his ex-girlfriend about her interactions with "Kenny," the affidavit said.

Shell also allegedly told investigators that he and "Kenny" had engaged in hostile exchanges previously, and Shell provided the name of "Kenny's" workplace.

Police say they went to his workplace and identified the suspect as Kenneth Smith. He was taken in to custody and, during his interview, authorities say he voluntarily admitted to being the person who phoned in the hoax.

Also during the interivew, Smith said his motive for doing so was to "avenge" his girlfriend, Shell's ex, because Shell had posted a compromising picture of her on Facebook.

If convicted, Smith faced 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and possible restitution.

Meanwhile, after Shell was released from custody in Philadelphia, he was allowed to continue on to Dallas.

Once he was there, however, Texas authorities arrested Shell on outstanding warrants for two drug-possession charges: having less than two ounces of marijuana and less than 28 grams of a controlled substance. He was jailed Friday morning on $3,000 bond in Collin County near Dallas.

Shell was on his way to Texas to celebrate his 29th birthday.

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