DeQuincy, LA — 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.
“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.”