COA: Bomb threat still evacuates closed courthouse

A man convicted of intimidation for threatening to blowup a courthouse failed to persuade the Indiana Court of Appeals that he did not want to evacuate the building because he made the calls when he knew the place would be empty.

Keith Laughlin was arrested for calling in a bomb threat to the Johnson County Courthouse at 5 p.m. on a Saturday in January 2015. He contacted the 911 dispatcher multiple times and at one point asked, “Did you find the bomb? … You have 10 minutes to respond.”

Police inspected the courthouse and did not find an explosive device. They then traced the call and located Laughlin. After a bench trial, Laughlin was convicted of Level 6 felony intimidation and sentenced to two years.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in Keith A. Laughlin v. State of Indiana, 41A01-1708-CR-1817.

Before the appellate panel, Laughlin argued the state did not present sufficient evidence that he intended his threats to cause the evacuation of the local courthouse. He made the calls on a weekend afternoon when he believed the building would be empty because his did not want to force people to leave the premises.

Laughlin said his intent was to harass police and force them to enter an empty courthouse.

The state presented evidence that Laughlin knew the natural consequence of his behavior would be an evacuation of the courthouse. In a footnote, Judge Melissa May explained “evacuation” is not defined by the number of people who must exit but rather is by the condition in which the building remains after the occurrence.

“The simple fact that a courthouse is not open for business does not guarantee that building is empty; thus, regardless when a bomb threat is made, police still must take all necessary steps to ensure no one is in a threatened building,” May wrote. “An evacuation must occur.”

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