Threats Caused Delays That Affected More Than 1,000 Rail Passengers
WASHINGTON—Michael Jerome Dennis, 27, of Washington, D.C., has been indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on charges stemming from two separate bomb threats against the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak).
The indictment was announced today by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Amtrak Chief of Police John J. O’Connor.
Dennis was arrested May 3, 2012, following an investigation by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which includes members from various law enforcement agencies, including the Amtrak Police. The indictment, returned April 26, 2012 in the U.S. District Court and unsealed today, charges Dennis with two counts of threatening and conveying false information about an attempt or alleged attempt to use a destructive device against railroad carrier equipment, and with two counts of threatening and conveying false information through a cellular telephone concerning the use of an explosive device.
Because at the time of both threats, the trains affected were carrying passengers and Amtrak employees, Dennis faces the possibility of a maximum sentence of imprisonment of up to life in prison.
According to the indictment, Dennis made the threats on November 30, 2011 and January 19, 2012. The target of both threats was the Amtrak bridge on New York Avenue NE, Washington, D.C., just north of Union Station. All Amtrak trains from the Northeast Corridor that come into and out of Washington, D.C., must pass under this bridge. As a result of both threats, a number of Amtrak trains were delayed, resulting in losses and delays for Amtrak, which also affected over 1,000 rail passengers.
“Threats against our public transportation systems are deadly serious,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “They cause delays, distract attention from real public safety concerns, and instill unnecessary fear in the traveling public. This prosecution demonstrates our commitment to punishing any person who makes a threat against public transportation.”
“Mr. Dennis has been arrested for threats he is alleged to have made against Amtrak,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “Such threats disrupt the lives of others, cost taxpayer dollars to investigate, and simply will not be tolerated.”
“Amtrak commends the thorough investigative work by the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Columbia and the Washington Field Office FBI Joint Terrorist Task Force (JTTF) on this case,” said Amtrak Chief of Police O’Connor. “The Amtrak Police Department is committed to continuing its participation on the FBI JTTF’s and to the mutual dedication to providing a safe and secure travel environment for our passengers.”
The indictment was unsealed today when Dennis made his initial appearance before the Honorable Magistrate Judge Alan Kay. Dennis pled not guilty to the charges and was released on high-intensity supervision pending a hearing on May 11, 2012.
An indictment is merely an allegation that defendants have committed a violation of criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty in a court of law.