Angela Timmons, 54, an employee at Virginia College in South Carolina, appears to have carried out an April Fools’ Day prank that few in her family will soon forget. Timmons, 54, send an email to her daughter that there was a gunman on the loose at the school and the daughter called police — triggering a massive response. It was a stupid prank. However, the range of charges against Timmons is a bit disconcerting.
Timmons worked at the Virginia College in South Carolina and sent the email to April Timmons, 34, that a shooter was on the loose. April called police from New York and Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright went into full crisis mode. He soon discovered it was a prank. Timmons admitted to her daughter that it was a joke and the daughter called 911, stating “Oh my goodness. She’s saying she’s playing an April Fools’ joke. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry, sir.”
Timmons had never done anything like this in the past. However, she was hit by criminal charge even though she never called officials. It was not a classic hoax in that sense where someone had the intent to cause panic in the public.
Timmons was charged with one count of aggravated breach of peace, one count of disturbing a school and two counts of unlawful use of a telephone. Prosecutors often over-charge crimes to force people to accept a plea bargain (a practice that I have long criticized but one that is openly acknowledged as a way to coerce plea agreements). Even if Timmons should be criminally charged, it is problematic to see the same conduct charged repeatedly in different ways. The phone line was the vehicle for the first two charges and it is then the based for two other charges. The courts have allowed such proliferation of counts, which allow prosecutors stack counts and extend potential sentences.
Timmons is likely to be fired for the prank and she is likely to have trouble in later employment after this bone headed move. Is it appropriate to charge her with multiple crimes when she did not intend to cause public panic and only sent the note to her daughter?
Source: Metro Crime