Swatting, Twitch TV and 25 Years in Federal Prison for a 15 Year Old
Swatting: Swatting refers to a person falsely reporting an incident which requires the police (preferably SWAT) to respond when a response is not actually required. Some gamer Swatters and the targets of Swatters, knowingly or unknowingly live televise the incident as a part of gameplay.
Twitch: Purchased by Amazon for $970 million, is a live streaming video platform primarily focused on video gaming, including playthroughs of video games by users, along with broadcasts of e-sports competitions. Content on the site can either be viewed live, or viewed on an on-demand basis.
From nationalreport.net: What many teenagers these days are considering a harmless prank, has landed one online gamer in more trouble than he could have ever imagined. In a Louisiana courtroom today, 15-year-old Paul Horner broke down in tears after a judge found the young man guilty on two counts of domestic terrorism and was sentenced to twenty-five years to life in federal prison.
Horner is the first person in history to be charged with what is known as ‘swatting‘, a growing trend in which a person anonymously files a false police report, such as a murder or bomb threat, in hopes of provoking the police to raid an individual’s home or business. Prosecutors in the case proved that Horner called in multiple false threats against rival online gamers, resulting in SWAT team raids of their residence.
“Swatting” is a new fad among gamers targeting those who “livestream“, broadcasting themselves and their game play live over the Internet to fans and in-game rivals alike. If a gamer is able to ascertain the personal information of a rival, by locating their IP and residential address, they will call in a dangerous threat to law enforcement and watch as the “livestreamer’s” house is forcibly entered by police.
The practice of “SWATTING” was recently brought to national attention by the YouTube video: The Creatures (Kootra) got SWAT Raided (SWATTED) #FreeKootra2014. Law Enforcement agencies say that the practice, which has been occurring with increasing frequency since 2013, wastes valuable resources and places innocent people in harm’s way. The 2014 incident, which resulted in the charges against Horner, are a prime example of this.
Defense lawyers told the courtroom that Horner, who goes by the gamertag BadAssDwg69, was upset after being repeatedly beaten by a fellow gamer at Battlefield 4. After obtaining the rival gamers information, prosecutors say Horner called police and reported a murder/hostage situation at the home. SWAT team then raided the house, shooting and critically injuring the “Livestreamer’s” father in the process. Following an investigation of the incident, Horner was charged as an adult, using provisions of the 2001 Patriot Act. Horner’s guilty charge stems from two counts of domestic terrorism, related to his manipulation of an enforcement response, and injuries to innocents resulting from those actions.
Prosecutors played audio of Horner’s 911 phone call to the jury:
“I just shot and killed four people. If any police enter my home I will kill them too,” the statement read in part.
During closing arguments, prosecuting attorney Jack Phillips explained the state’s assessment of Horner to the jury.
“There were no victims or any evidence that a shooting had taken place,” Phillips said. “Horner’s actions are pure evil, he is a menace to society and must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Horner, described as affecting a brash, “hardcore” persona while online was anything but throughout the trial. At multiple times Horner broke down into fits of sobbing hysteria and calls to his mother, to the point that the presiding Judge, Arthur Digsby, was forced to have him removed. Hearing the sentence of 25 years to life, Horner began sobbing. Judge Digsby told Horner that though he felt bad for the youth, he was ultimately responsible for his own actions.
“Ignorance of consequence because of lack of thought absolves no one”, the Judge told Horner. “Thinking that your actions were only a prank did not make them only a prank.”
Raids by SWAT teams are known as the most dangerous work law enforcement can do. On December 19th of last year, near Somerville, Texas, a SWAT team deputy was shot and killed during an attempt to serve a no-knock warrant. Just before 6:00 A.M., SWAT team members entered the home of Henry Goedrich Magee. They were there to serve a warrant which would permit the team to search the mobile home in which Magee and his pregnant girlfriend were living. Reacting to the pre-dawn, forced entry, Magee grabbed a rifle propped against a bedroom door frame and fired at the unidentified intruders, killing 31 year old sheriff’s deputy Adam Sowders.
Judge Digsby finished his sentencing as he went on to admonish anyone who would try to emulate such idiocy.
“Leave your petty pride in the realm of digital fantasy where it is still safe,” Digsby said. “Because, as young mister Horner has learned, actions in the real world don’t have a reset button. And every parent should make sure their children understand that.”
Gamers are not all teenagers, nor are they all male. They include men and women – and employees – from all industries and locations.
The Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) 2014 report on video game sales, usage and demographics places the amounts of U.S. female and males gamers remarkably close.
Of the United States’ gaming population, which makes up around 59 percent of the country, females accounted for roughly 48 percent of individuals who actively engage in video games, according to the ESA’s report (PDF). And when it comes to purchases of video games, males and females are at a 50/50 split.
Gamers in general are often older than many stereotypes may paint them to be. The average age of U.S. gamers is 31 and the most common history of gaming goes back 14 years — most grown male gamers have been gaming for 16 years and adult females for 13. In fact, the ESA found 48 percent of adults age 50 and older say they play video games.
“People of all ages play video games. There is no longer a ‘stereotype game player,’ but instead a game player could be your grandparent, your boss, or even your professor,” Jason Allaire, associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, stated in one of ESA’s reports.
The FBI’s Dallas office initiated the first swatting case. They learned that it’s easy for an individual with knowledge of computers and telephone systems to create a false major incident requiring immediate police response. A major emergency threatening the life and well-being of others often will initiate a SWAT response.
The problem before law enforcement is that successful Swatting incidents draw national media attention. This generates copycat incidents. Every Swatter wants to surpass what others have accomplished previously. The dilemma is that Swatting has no boundaries: Canada is also experiencing Swatting incidents.
The FBI has arrested numerous individuals for Swatting offenses; some are currently in prison. The Bureau provides guidance to state and local law enforcement agencies. Local law enforcement agencies handle most of these incidents. Implementing regional task forces comprised of local, state, and federal officers will open the lines of communication and exchange of information.
The Matthew Weigman Case
In 2009, Matthew Weigman, then 19 years old, was sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison for a swatting conspiracy that had been going on for years.
A prolific phone hacker, Weigman and nine co-conspirators used social engineering and other scams to obtain personal information, impersonate and harass telecommunications employees, and manipulate phone systems to carry out dozens of swatting incidents, along with other crimes. Several of his co-conspirators also received jail time.
Weigman’s first swatting incident occurred in 2004 when he was 14 years old. When a girl he met through an online chat room refused to have phone sex with him, he retaliated by swatting the girl and her father, convincing a 9-1-1 operator he was holding the two at gunpoint in their Colorado home, which prompted a SWAT response.
The Littleton, Colorado Incident
An internet prank on Wednesday, August 27 ended with the storming of an office building in Littleton, Colorado by heavily-armed SWAT police while computer gamers watched the raid unfold live on the internet.
Jordan Mathewson, co-founder of The Creatures online gaming company, told a local ABC News affiliate that around 3,000 people were watching online early Wednesday as he broadcast the gameplay of a popular, first-person shooter along with a live feed taken from his computer’s webcam. Things nearly took a turn for the tragic, however, when around two hours into the broadcast, he heard what turned out to be a barrage of tactical officers racing through his building.
A recording of the live feed that was being streamed over the web shows Mathewson cautiously removing his headphones and saying “I think we’re getting swatted” moments before a team of cops clad with rifles burst into his office with guns drawn and order him to the ground.
On Twitter, a user with the screen name @ScrewPain was the first to post video of the raid, 7News reported, and admitted to being the guilty party responsible for swatting Mathewson, who is known in the gaming community under the handle “Kootra.”
“I did it because I can,” ScrewPain told a 7News correspondent over Twitter.
“I have watched The Creatures for some time now,” he added. “I’ve had their info for about a week [and] waited until they streamed and then called it in.”
According to the person behind the ScrewPain handle, he was already being questioned by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation just hours after the swatting occurred.
Speaking to 7News, the chief of the Littleton Police Department warned other would-be swatters that making false reports can have yield very serious consequences.
“This is not a game. This is not an online game. We have real guns with real bullets, and there’s a potential there for some tragedy,” said Chief Doug Stephens
“People on the internet really like the anonymity of being online and being able to get away with stuff and they like to test it sometimes,” Mathewson added to 7News during a Wednesday night interview. “You can see it’s turned into something a little more serious.”
Swatting incidents create stressful situations for officers as well as the swatting victim being confronted in the privacy of their home or business. Police believe that there is a legitimate threat and the person targeted has done nothing wrong. This scenario creates an immediate confrontation. There is nothing amusing about this. Swatting can lead to lawsuits, personal injuries, false arrest, or the improper use of force. This criminal conduct is a threat to the officers, the person targeted, and the community.
“The FBI looks at these crimes as a public-safety issue,” said Kevin Kolbye, an assistant special agent in charge of the Dallas Division. “It’s only a matter of time before somebody gets seriously injured as a result of one of these incidents.”
Companies that have gaming breakrooms, or that allow gaming during break times, must be especially diligent in educating employees to the risk posed to people and property by televised gaming and swatting.