Southwest Bomb-Scare Prankster Indicted

A San Antonio man who allegedly left a bomb-scare note on a Southwest Airlines plane was indicted this week on two counts by a federal grand jury in Houston.


SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- A San Antonio man who allegedly left a bomb-scare note on a Southwest Airlines plane was indicted this week on two counts by a federal grand jury in Houston.

Elias J. Cervantez, 20, faces a charge of conveying false information that a bomb was on last Friday's flight from Dallas to Houston.

He is also charged with intimidating the flight crew by writing the bomb-scare note that was found by another passenger and set in motion a series of searches and the temporary shutdown of operations at Hobby Airport.

The intimidation count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, according to federal statutes, while the false information count is punishable by up to five years.

The indictment stated that the note, found in a seat pocket, said ''Theres (sic) a bomb on the plane!''

Cervantez confessed that he wrote the note on a gum wrapper, according to an FBI affidavit.

Cervantez, who was being held in San Antonio after his arrest, was released Friday into the custody of his mother, who lives in Odessa.

He is scheduled to appear in federal court in Houston on August 19 to enter his plea to the criminal charges.

A group of Cervantez's friends and family members attended Friday's bail hearing before U.S. Magistrate Nancy Nowak.

The thin, boyish-looking Cervantez, wearing steel-rimmed glasses and a green jail suit, shuffled into the courtroom looking nervous and bewildered.

Ernie Cervantez, who lives in Odessa, said his son pulled a foolish prank, but he's not a criminal.

''He's the last person in our family that we thought would be in shackles,'' Ernie Cervantez said after the bail hearing. ''He's not a bad kid. He's a great guy. ... But he did something stupid. We hope (prosecutors) will be merciful.

''You've got to let other kids know what will happen if they do this,'' he continued. ''But I hope if they throw the book at (his son), it's not for that reason.''

The passenger who found the note alerted the crew, who taxied the plane to an isolated area of Hobby Airport and evacuated the passengers, the FBI affidavit said.

Airport operations were temporarily shut down while the threat was investigated. A bomb-sniffing dog and federal and local law enforcement officials searched the plane.

The flight was delayed on its next leg to Corpus Christi while authorities interviewed and re-screened each passenger.

A flight attendant on the plane told the FBI that she recalled Cervantez and another passenger on an earlier flight on the same plane from Midland to Dallas who were sitting near where the note was found.

They were ''giggling and messing with each other,'' according to the affidavit.

The Houston Chronicle reported this week that Josh Gonzales, Cervantez's roommate and fellow passenger, said the two were just ''making dumb jokes'' when the note was written.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press

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