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Airplane Threat Hoax


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APHILADELPHIA MAN who was the victim of a cruel airplane hoax was set up by his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend because the man had posted a "compromising picture" of his ex on Facebook, according to court documents.

Federal authorities arrested Kenneth Smith Jr., 26, of Philadelphia, for calling police at the Philadelphia International Airport Thursday morning and reporting that passenger Christopher Shell would attempt to board a Texas-bound flight with liquid explosives, court documents said.

The plane Shell was on - US Airways Flight 1267 - was recalled midair over Harrisburg and ordered to land in Philadelphia.

He was taken off the plane and not found to be in possession of any explosives. The plane was cleared, and 60 of the 69 passengers that were aboard continued on their journey to Texas.

During interviews with the FBI in Philadelphia, Shell told authorities he believed that his ex-girlfriend and her new beau, "Kenny," were behind the threat because he'd been exchanging hostile text messages with his ex and because he and Smith had had heated encounters.

After being cleared by authorities, Shell boarded another flight to celebrate his 29th birthday in his hometown of Keller, Texas. But instead of getting a birthday present when he landed, Shell got arrested.

Turns out, he had outstanding warrants out of Texas for possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to local authorities in Collin County, Texas.

As of Friday afternoon, Shell had posted a total of $3,175 bail for all three cases, according to John Norton, a spokesman for the Collin County police.

Back in Philadelphia, Smith was allowed to go free on $250,000 signature bail after his arraignment on Friday.

His attorney, William 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 his client's initial appearance in federal court. "He's not very happy about it."

According to the affidavit of probable cause against him, Smith and others decided to call in the airplane threat to "avenge" Shell's ex-girlfriend's honor because Shell had posted a compromising photo of the woman on Facebook.

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

When Smith placed the call to police by pay phone early Thursday morning, he used the name "George Michaels" and gave a Frankford Avenue address, police said.

Smith, of Port Richmond, could face up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if he is convicted.

A US Airways spokesman estimated the cost to the airlines for Smith's stunt would be upward of tens of thousands of dollars.

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