WAUWATOSA, Wis. -- Jake J. Brahm's jokes began on the
Internet with remarks about his boredom and mundane day-to-day
activities such as buying socks.
The 20-year-old grocery store clerk was still laughing Friday
despite learning in federal court that he faces up to five years in
prison on charges he posted prank Internet warnings of terrorist
attacks against NFL stadiums.
When reporters asked him to comment after the hearing, Brahm
smiled and laughed, saying nothing.
Brahm was accused of writing that radioactive "dirty bombs"
would be detonated this weekend at seven football stadiums. He
admitted posting the same threat about 40 times on various Web
sites between September and Wednesday, investigators said.
"These types of hoaxes scare innocent people, cost business
resources and waste valuable homeland security resources. We cannot
tolerate this Internet version of yelling 'fire' in a crowded
theater in the post-9/11 era," said U.S. Attorney Christopher
Christie in Newark, N.J., where Brahm was charged in a sealed
complaint filed Thursday. One of the stadiums mentioned was Giants
Stadium in nearby East Rutherford.
Brahm, of Wauwatosa, was charged with making a terrorist threat
over the Internet, which carries a maximum five-year prison
sentence and $250,000 fine. When the potential sentence was read in
court, his mother, with whom he lives, closed her eyes and put her
hand over her mouth.
U.S. Magistrate Patricia Gorence released Brahm without bail,
citing his spotless record and strong community ties. She
prohibited him from using the Internet, where he maintained several
blogs, or traveling outside Wisconsin and New Jersey, where his
lawyer said he plans to make a court appearance.
Brahm's attorney, Patrick Knight, said after the hearing that
his client was shocked by the way the threats were received. He
described Brahm as quiet and gentle and said he had not seen
anything to indicate Brahm meant any real harm.
"When you're a 20-year-old, and you roll a snowball, and the
next thing you know, it's as big as a house rolling down a hill, it
surprises you a bit," Knight said.
Brahm's parents declined to comment at the courthouse or at
their home in a middle-class neighborhood near the grocery store
where Brahm had worked.
Richard Ruminski, the FBI agent in charge of the agency's
Milwaukee office, said Brahm thought posting the threats would be
"As I understand it, Mr. Brahm had put out this threat thinking
it was so preposterous that no one would take it seriously,"
Ruminski said. "Unfortunately, he was wrong."
The warnings briefly set off a scare this week, before federal
authorities announced the warnings were a hoax.
Wauwatosa police Chief Barry Weber said Brahm had bragged to
friends about his actions.
An FBI official in Washington, who spoke on condition of
anonymity because the case is still under investigation, told The
Associated Press that Brahm acknowledged doing it as part of a
"writing duel" with a man from Texas to see who could post the
One of the threats, dated Oct. 12, appeared on the Web site
"The Friend Society," which links to various online forums and
off-color cartoons. Its author, identified in the message as
"javness," said that trucks would deliver radiological bombs
Sunday to stadiums in Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Cleveland,
Oakland, Calif., and the New York City area, and that Osama bin
Laden would claim responsibility.
On a separate blog under Brahm's name, the writer posted a photo
of a football stadium next to a list of goals for 2006, which
included committing a felony and "trying to leave the house at
least twice a week."
Brahm worked for the last 10 weeks at Outpost Natural Foods, a
co-op around the corner from his house. "He was a normal guy.
That's all we're going to say at this time," said Jeremy Layman,
Mallory McKenney, who graduated a year before Brahm from
Wauwatosa East High School, said: "He was quiet but always seemed
friendly whenever we were in a group of people together."
Erik Vasys, an FBI spokesman in San Antonio, said there would be
no charges against the Texas man because he did not take part in
the writing of the threats.