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Suspect Charged In 'Air Hoax,' And Victim Arrested On Unrelated Charges

The US Air flight that was forced to return to Philadelphia on Thursday because of the hoax.
Clem Murray
MCT /Landov
The US Air flight that was forced to return to Philadelphia on Thursday because of the hoax.

File this under "you think you had a bad day?" and "that was a really dumb idea."

First, a plane headed from Philadelphia to Texas is turned around Thursday because someone called authorities to say a passenger was carrying a "liquid explosive."

Then, after passenger Christopher Shell — the guy the caller ID'd — is cleared and no explosives are found he's allowed to get on another fight to Dallas. But when he lands, he's arrested "for outstanding warrants [charges unknown] from law-enforcement agencies in the Dallas/Fort Worth area," as the Philadelphia Daily News reports.

Oh, and this was all on his 29th birthday, the Daily News says.

But, wait. There's more.

There's word that agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have arrested another man, 26-year-old Kenneth Smith of Philadelphia. He's been charged with making the phone call that led to Shell's first brush with law enforcement authorities Thursday.

According to authorities, Smith and Shell had been having some "hostile exchanges" about a woman — Shell's ex-girlfriend. While being questioned, ATF agents say, "Smith stated that his motive for [the hoax] was to 'avenge' [Shell's] ex-girlfriend," because Shell had allegedly posted "a compromising picture" of her on Facebook.

Smith "faces a maximum possible statutory sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and possible restitution," the Justice Department says.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.