Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino issued a warning today to juveniles and others tempted to threaten schools on social media.
In the wake of the shooting in Florida, Essex County has had three incidents of teens, ranging in age from 13 years old to 18 years old, making threats against schools.
“These copycat incidents are serious crimes and those who engage in this kind of criminal conduct face serious consequences,’’ said Acting Essex County Prosecutor Laurino.
“We want to make it clear to young people who think this is a joke or a prank, that they will be prosecuted for this behavior,’’ said Acting Prosecutor Laurino.
In the last few days there has been a considerable spike in incidents. Michael Schmitt, 18, of West Caldwell has been charged with false public alarm after he allegedly posted a threat against Caldwell High School on social media on Saturday.
On Feb. 16, two days after the Valentine’s Day shooting in Florida, Joseph Rafanello, 18, of Nutley was also charged with false public alarm after an incident closed the Nutley High School.
A 13-year-old from Madison and 14-year-old from Nutley were also charged with causing a false public alarm for making a threat against Abundant Life Academy, a private Pre-K to 12th-grade school in Nutley. One of the juveniles was a current student and the other was a former student at the school.
Rafanello and Schmitt remain in custody at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark. Rafanello is scheduled to have a detention hearing tomorrow. Schmitt’s detention hearing is scheduled for March 1. Both hearings are scheduled before the Honorable Peter Ryan, Judge of the Superior Court.
Separately, Laurino also announced that John Coulouris, 19, of Hackensack entered a guilty plea yesterday before the Honorable Judge Mark J. Nelson to eight counts related to threats against Livingston High School posted on social media in 2016. Coulouris admitted to making two posts on Sept. 3 and 23, 2016 where he created two fictitious Facebook accounts and posted threats against Livingston High School, according to Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Giordano, who handled the case.
“The internet is not some magical place where the law does not apply, even when suspects take measures to hide their identity,” Giordano said in a statement. “We will investigate and prosecute threats to our schools and other similar ‘swatting incidents’ to the fullest.”