Ex-student pleads guilty in Ohio State bomb threat
AP Legal Affairs Writer
COLUMBUS — A former Ohio State University student struggling to make the transition from the military to college life emailed a bomb threat to the FBI the day he was scheduled to take an exam, the FBI said Monday at a court hearing.
Jonathan Birkemeyer used a stolen iPod to email FBI headquarters in Washington the morning of Nov. 16 to say he’d found a detailed map of nine bombs in four locations at Ohio State, including the hall where the exam was being held, according to FBI Special Agent Kenneth Smith.
Birkemeyer, 24, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Columbus to one count of maliciously conveying false information concerning an attempt to destroy property by means of explosives. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, though likely will receive a far lighter sentence under federal sentencing guidelines.
Federal prosecutors said in the plea agreement filed in federal court May 27 that Birkemeyer has taken responsibility.
His attorney, Keith Schneider, declined to comment Monday. A sentencing date has not been set.
Birkemeyer, a criminology student, enrolled at Ohio State in the fall of 2009 after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy. He withdrew this past winter quarter. Ohio State declined to comment Monday.
Birkemeyer has also pleaded not guilty in Franklin County court to charges of burglary and receiving stolen property stemming from the Oct. 9 theft of an Apple MacBook from an apartment near the Ohio State campus.
Federal prosecutors say Birkemeyer used that computer as part of his emailed threat.
Birkemeyer had downloaded an exam review sheet the day before the threat was made, Smith said.
“The professor advised that Mr. Birkemeyer had shared that he was having a tough time making the transition from the military to being a full-time college student,” Smith said.
The FBI says the email regarding the supposed bombs was sent to a public tips website just after 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 16 and came from an Apple iPod. The message described the discovery of a “detailed map” of bombs around campus that were “made of chemical and high explosive powder,” according to Smith. The locations included McPherson Chemical Lab, where Birkemeyer was scheduled to take an exam that morning.
The FBI’s investigation identified the Internet address assigned to the iPod and learned that Birkemeyer had accessed his Facebook account from the same address 13 minutes before the threatening email was sent, Smith said.
Smith said Birkemeyer used the stolen MacBook to check the FBI tip site and maps of Ohio State before using the iPod to send the threat. A U.S. Marine had reported the iPod stolen aboard the USS John C. Stennis during the same time Birkemeyer was aboard, Smith said.
Birkemeyer and three roommates were interviewed the same day the threat was made and Birkemeyer’s laptop was taken by investigators, Smith said.
Birkemeyer failed a makeup exam on Nov. 18 after trying unsuccessfully to get out of the exam by saying he’d given his laptop to police.