Ashton Lundeby Update: Less Than Meets The Eyeby Doug Mataconis
Earlier this week, I wrote about the story of Ashton Lundeby — a 16 year-old kid being held in Indiana in connection with an alleged bomb threat — and his mother’s allegations that he son was being detained pursuant to the PATRIOT Act.
Well, it seems that there is much less to this story than there seemed to be at first blush.
First of all, it’s quite apparent that the PATRIOT Act is not even involved in this case. Lundeby was arrested under a 70 year old law that makes it a Federal crime to use telecommunications equipment to make interstate bomb threats.
Second, it’s quite obvious that Lundeby is not the innocent 16 year-old that his mother made him out to be in initial reports:
A 16-year-old North Carolina boy arrested for allegedly making a bomb threat against Purdue University had a secret identity as a superstar in an unusual online subculture — one dedicated to making prank phone calls for a live internet audience, his mother admitted Thursday.
“I heard the prank phone calls he made,” says Annette Lundeby of Oxford. “They were really funny prank phone calls…. He made phone calls to, like, Walmart.”
Lundeby confirmed that her son was known online as “Tyrone,” a celebrity in a prank-calling community that grew late last year out of the trouble-making “/b/” board on 4chan. Using the VOIP conferencing software Ventrilo, as many as 300 listeners would gather on a server run by Tyrone to listen to him and other amateur voice actors make often-crude and racist phone calls, some of which are archived on YouTube. The broadcasts were organized through websites like PartyVanPranks.com.
A former fan of Tyrone’s work helped lead the police to Lundeby’s son after the boy allegedly moved beyond pranks this year and began accepting donations from students eager to miss a day of school. In exchange for a little money, Tyrone would phone in a bomb threat that would shutter the donor’s school for a day.
“People would pay about five dollars, and they get to submit a number,” says Jason Bennett, a 19-year-old college student in Syndey, Australia. “It was getting way out of hand.”
Lundeby admits that her son received donations for his prank phone calls, but denies that he made bomb threats. She says her son was with her, coming home from church, at the time of the February 15 phone call that summoned a bomb squad and evacuated the mechanical engineering building at Purdue University in Indiana.
Bennett didn’t hear the Purdue call, but he says he heard Tyrone admit to that bomb threat later, and decided enough was enough. He contacted university police and began helping them get the goods on “Tyrone.”
Now this doesn’t mean that Lundeby is guilty of the charges against him, but these reports do cast serious doubts on his mother’s credibility, most especially on her assertion that her son is a victim of overzealous use of the PATRIOT Act. So, you know, sorry for jumping the gun on this story because, as Rick Sincere says, it’s pretty clear we’ve been punked.