Felony Terrorism Threats: Charges, Penalties, & Defense

Gavel depicting felony terrorism chargeseats

Have you ever wondered if a private online conversation could get you or a loved one in big trouble?

If not, it might be time to consider such a possibility.

This is the reality for one Essexville, Michigan 15-year-old who is now facing a 20-year felony. He is too young for the press to release his identity.

However, he was not too young to have this whopping charge thrown at him: one count of making false reports or threat of terrorism.

False Report of Terrorism

According to Michigan State legislature section 750.543m, a person is guilty of making a terrorist threat or of making a false report of terrorism if the person does either of the following:

  • Threatens to commit an act of terrorism and communicates the threat to any other person.
  • Knowingly makes a false report of an act of terrorism and communicates the false report to any other person, knowing the report is false.

In addition, it is not a defense to a prosecution under this section that the defendant did not have the intent or capability of committing the act of terrorism.

Police Action

However, how did police learn of this threat? Did the boy make the threat in person? Did he intend for anyone in authority to see his conversation and take it seriously?

The teen’s defense attorney, Matthew L. Reyes, says no.

According to MLive, here is what happened:

In October 2018, a Florida woman made a report to the Bay County Sheriff’s Deputy that she had learned of a potential threat.

Detectives from the Essexville Department of Public Safety – who were given the case – determined the threat pertained to Garber High School and made a call to Superintendent Matthew Cortez.

The school was put on lockdown.

Within 30 minutes of the Sheriff’s Deputy receiving the phone call, officers arrested the 15-year-old freshman.

Not only did officers find no guns in the school, but they also found no guns in the boy’s home, although they did seize what they called “non-firearm weapons.”

Police have not disclosed what these weapons are. They say the threat they intercepted “outlined very specific, detailed plans” about harming other students.

Online Chatting

What does this boy’s attorney say?

“This involved a private conversation between two boys, essentially joking with each other. At no point was anyone threatened. At no point was a threat made.”

This online chat was between two friends, and a reference was made by the client of shooting up the school. The other boy’s sister saw the thread and reported it to her friend who lives in Florida. The friend told her mother, and the mother called the police.

What remains to be seen is whether this “reference” is proof of a threat. The 15-year-old is in custody at the Bay County Juvenile Home and awaiting a preliminary hearing.

All for an online conversation.

If the state can prove its charge, the defendant could face the full 20 years in prison or up to 20,000 in fines.


However, the state must prove that the teen made a threat. Since police could find no weapons, all it has to prove its case is this one conversation.

The teen’s attorney will also work hard to find any way in which his rights were violated during any searches or interrogations during the investigation.


Should a 15-year-old be facing a 20-year felony for a private online conversation? Where does his first-amendment right end and a terrorism threat begin?

Contact a Reputable Criminal Attorney Today

If you are facing charges because of an online conversation you thought was private, call a reputable defense attorney to defend your rights. Call my office today. I will diligently fight for the best possible outcome!

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