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Maryland 'joker' who threatened shooting faces phone misdemeanor

August 01, 2012|By Michael Muskal

A Maryland man who threatened to shoot up his workplace will be charged with misdemeanor telephone misuse because the state lacks the type of law necessary to charge him with a more serious offense, officials said Wednesday.

Neil E. Prescott, 28, will remain hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation, Angela Alsobrooks, the state’s attorney for Prince George’s County, said at a televised news conference. Prescott could also face federal weapons charges.

A onetime supervisor of Prescott told police last week that Prescott had referred to himself as "a joker" in telephone calls in which he threatened to shoot up a former workplace in Maryland. 

TIMELINE: Mass shootings in the U.S.

The calls came in the wake of the July 20 mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater. That rampage, in which 12 people were killed and 58 injured, occurred during a showing of the latest Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises." 

The report of the calls prompted police to raid Prescott's apartment in Crofton, Md.; there, authorities said, officers seized a cache of weapons, including semiautomatic rifles and pistols and thousands of rounds of ammunition

"We're not walking away from this man,” Prince George's County Police Chief Mark A. Magaw said of Prescott. "He was a danger to himself and others," the chief said later in the news conference.

Alsobrooks said police had seized about 15 weapons and that all were legal under Maryland law. She also said Prescott would have faced more serious charges in other nearby jurisdictions, but that Maryland's law did not include an appropriate felony charge. She said she plans to lobby the Legislature to pass such a measure.

"If Maryland had that statute," she said of felony laws in other jurisdictions, "we could charge him immediately."

Without that type of law, Alsobrooks said, she had no choice but to charge Prescott with a misdemeanor alleging telephone misuse. If convicted, Prescott could face up to three years in prison on the state charges.

In Colorado, James E. Holmes faces 24 counts of first-degree murder in connection with the movie theater shooting and 116 counts of attempted murder.

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Join Michael on Google+. Email: michael.muskal@latimes.com

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