Federal authorities have charged a Northeastern University worker with planting a hoax bomb on campus, and then claiming he was injured by a blast that never occurred.
Jason Duhaime was arrested in Texas and charged with "conveying false information and hoaxes related to an explosive device and making materially false and fictitious statements in a matter within the executive branch of the government of the United States."
"Our city more than most knows all too well that a report or threat of an explosion is a very serious matter and necessitates an immediate and significant law enforcement response, given the potential devastation that can ensue," U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins said during a press conference Tuesday announcing the arrest.
Duhaime worked as the new technology manager and director of the Immersive Media Lab at Northeastern. According to the affidavit filed as part of the federal criminal complaint, he called 911 on Sept. 13 to say he found a case that contained an explosive and a "violent note." The note found was a screed about technology that name-checked Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and threatened to blow up the lab.
But the case "did not bear any marks, dents, cracks, holes, or other signs that it had been exposed to a forceful or explosive discharge of any type or magnitude," FBI Special Agent Steven Kimball wrote in the affidavit. "Likewise, aside from several fold marks, the Letter was pristine."
Duhaime told the police at the scene that there was a second case, which was in the lab's storage closet. Bomb technicians X-rayed the box, found it was empty, but decided to detonate it as a precaution.
He also said he was injured when "very sharp" objects flew out of the first case, and he was taken to the hospital for evaluation. Duhaime showed responders "superficial marks or bruises on his lower forearms," but his long-sleeved shirt showed no signs of damage.
During its investigation into the incident, agents seized a computer used by Duhaime. On it, they found a backup file that contained a "word-for-word, electronic" copy of the letter he said he found with the case. The file's metadata showed the letter was created at 3 p.m. on Sept. 13.
"This is inconsistent with DUHAIME’s statements to the JTTF Agent insofar as he claimed the Letter was found inside the Subject Case, and that the Subject Case was present in the mail area in Meserve Hall on September 12, 2022," Kimball wrote. "In other words, because the metadata indicates that the Letter was not created until September 13th, the Letter could not have been placed inside the Subject Case on September 12th."
A request for comment from Duhaime's defense attorney was not immediately returned. Duhaime has previously denied any involvement with writing the note or placing the cases on campus.
"We believe Mr. Duhaime wanted to be the victim but instead victimized his entire community by instilling fear at college campuses in Massachusetts and beyond," Joseph Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston office, said during Tuesday's press conference.
Duhaime is expected to make his first court appearance before a magistrate in Texas Tuesday afternoon.