Las Cruces Man Arrested for Using the Internet to Make a Threat
ALBUQUERQUE—Zachary Milton Hess, 19, of Las Cruces, N.M., made his initial appearance in Las Cruces federal court yesterday on a criminal complaint charging him with using the Internet to make a threat or to maliciously convey false information. Hess remains in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for August 28, 2014.
The criminal complaint alleges that on May 27, 2014, an individual anonymously threatened to “shoot [his] college campus up in three days” and identified his school as “NMSU” while “chatting” on an Internet chat website. According to the criminal complaint, another individual saw the threat and posted a screen shot of the threat onto NMSU’s FaceBook page. Thereafter, the threat was passed onto law enforcement, including the FBI. The FBI’s investigation revealed that the IP Address for the Internet connection from which the threat was posted was subscribed to Hess’ residence. An examination of Hess’s computer revealed that the computer allegedly had been used to visit the website on which the threat was posted.
The criminal complaint alleges that NMSU expended significant resources in responding to the threat. Among other things, NMSU officials informed approximately 18,774 students, facility, staff and private citizens about the anonymous threat; advised students, faculty and staff to depart the campus; and shut down its new student registration process. NMSU allegedly lost approximately 1000 staff hours in responding to the threat.
If convicted on the charge in the criminal complaint, Hess faces a statutory maximum penalty of ten years in prison. Charges in criminal complaints are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of the FBI and the NMSU Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa A. Lizarraga of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.