A Westminster man received a five-year sentence for calling one of the county's courthouses with a bomb threat last year to avoid an eviction proceeding.
Michael Paul Justice Sr., 37, of the 100 block of S. Ralph St., pleaded not guilty but agreed not to challenge the state's version of the facts to one count of false statement of a destructive device in December.
"I know what I did was wrong, and I know it was a very dumb mistake in my life," Justice told Judge Michael M. Galloway on Wednesday.
Galloway gave Justice permission to say goodbye to his family in the courtroom before he was led away.
Public defender Thomas Nugent Jr. said Justice and his wife have eight children between them and were doing their best to deal with the financial strain, but were facing eviction last July.
Justice called the District Court of Maryland for Carroll County around 9:30 a.m. on the day he was scheduled to have a landlord-tenant hearing, according to court records.
Wednesday, Nugent said the eviction proceedings later went forward and the family was evicted.
All of the county's court buildings were evacuated and closed for more than three hours while K-9 teams swept the buildings, according to records.
The phone number the call came from was traced back to the Giant store in Westminster and surveillance footage showed a male suspect, later identified as Justice, enter the store, and a female employee at the customer service desk dial the phone and hand it to him, according to the records.
The female employee was originally charged in connection with the threat, but all charges have been dropped, according to Deputy State's Attorney Edward Coyne, who criticized Justice for not coming forward when he saw someone be wrongfully accused.
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"An innocent person gets charged and he doesn't say anything," Coyne said.
Justice said he did not know the woman was charged until police later came to his home after he was identified as a suspect.
"I had no idea that anything had happened to her," he said.
Galloway said he takes bomb threats against the court seriously because they disrupt operations and are a tremendous drain on resources.
During plea discussions, Galloway agreed to sentence Justice to no more than five years in prison. The maximum penalty for false statement of a destructive device is 10 years.
Galloway said Wednesday he did believe 10 years was excessive in most cases, but five years was not.
Reach staff writer Heather Cobun at 410-857-7898 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.