West Virginia man avoids prison in hoax to blow up Statue of Liberty

September 12, 2016 5:34 PM EDT

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By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A West Virginia man was sentenced on Monday to time served after he pleaded guilty to making a hoax threat to blow up the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor last year that led to the evacuation of 3,200 people.

Jason Smith, 43, was spared prison but sentenced to three years supervised release by U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick in Manhattan, who cited among other reasons Smith's need for mental health treatment.

Smith faced up to five years in prison after pleading guilty in June to one count of conveying false and misleading information and hoaxes.

The judge said Smith, who is deaf, had gone for years without treatment for mental health issues, and was now obtaining treatment that could be derailed by his imprisonment.

"For me, the issue is the protection of society and what would be the best way to achieve that," Broderick said at the sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors said that Smith in April 2015 used an iPad application that provides communication services to the hearing impaired to call New York City's emergency 911 system.

On the call, Smith identified himself as a "terrorist" named Abdul Yasin and said "we" were planning to "blow up" the Statute of Liberty, prosecutors said.

Authorities suspect a fugitive named Abdul Rahman Yasin participated in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in Manhattan by Islamist militants.

The bomb scare caused by Smith lasted about four hours.

Smith was arrested in Texas in August 2015 and was released about three weeks later. He has been living in a homeless shelter in New York while awaiting sentencing and was expected to remain in the city.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; editing by Grant McCool)



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