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John McCartney and Herald staff | jmccartney@heraldnet.com
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012, 2:53 p.m.

Facebook flap sparks airline bomb threat

  • Kenneth Smith, exits the U.S. Courthouse on Friday in Philadelphia. Smith was arrested and is charged with making a hoax threat that led authorities t...

    AP

    Kenneth Smith, exits the U.S. Courthouse on Friday in Philadelphia. Smith was arrested and is charged with making a hoax threat that led authorities to recall a plane in midair to the Philadelphia airport.

PHILADELPHIA — A man angry about a compromising Facebook photo of his girlfriend took revenge against the ex-boyfriend who posted it, making a hoax call to police that set off a terrorism scare and got the former beau taken off an airliner at gunpoint, authorities say.

The new boyfriend, Kenneth W. Smith Jr., was arrested Friday on charges of making a false threat to Philadelphia police, who recalled a Dallas-bound flight and marched the ex-beau, Christopher Shell, off the plane Thursday.

The episode led to Shell's own arrest on drug warrants after he finally reached Texas to celebrate his 29th birthday.

On Friday, both Shell and Smith posted bond.

Shell declined to comment. Smith's lawyer, Bill Brennan, described his client as "embarrassed" by the consequences of the alleged threat.

"My client is very, very sobered by the amount of attention this has received," Brennan said after Smith's initial appearance in federal court in Philadelphia. "He's not very happy about it."

Passengers weren't very happy about the scare that rerouted US Airways Flight 1267 on Thursday morning. They were about 90 miles into their trip when the aircraft turned around.

After landing at Philadelphia International Airport, heavily armed law enforcement officers boarded the plane and removed Shell. During questioning, he told authorities of the romantic feud, which involved hostile text messages with his ex and encounters with Smith, according to a federal affidavit.

Shell also gave officers the name of Smith's workplace. Authorities visited Smith, and he acknowledged calling airport police from a payphone to say that Shell was carrying liquid explosives.

Smith said he did it to "avenge" his new girlfriend, because Shell had posted a compromising picture of her on Facebook, the affidavit said.

"It is the kind of photo that would incense a boyfriend," said Brennan, Smith's lawyer.

Smith, 26, of Philadelphia, was charged with conveying false information that interfered with aviation and using an instrument of commerce — the phone — to do so.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and possible restitution.

Philadelphia police on Thursday had stressed that Shell was blameless for the airplane scare. He continued his travel later in the day to Texas, where he planned to celebrate his birthday with friends and family. But authorities arrested him when he arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Collin County authorities said Shell had outstanding warrants for two drug-possession charges — less than 2 ounces of marijuana and less than 28 grams of a controlled substance.

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