Ex-employee of Boston's Northeastern University convicted of hoax bombing

FILE PHOTO: A hard plastic case appears in a photo taken by law enforcement in Boston

By Nate Raymond

BOSTON (Reuters) - A former employee of Northeastern University was convicted on Friday of U.S. charges that he staged a hoax explosion in 2022 and fabricated a story about being injured after opening a package delivered to the school's campus in Boston.

A federal jury in Boston found Jason Duhaime, 47, guilty of charges that he conveyed false information related to an explosive device and lied to investigators after an incident that prompted an evacuation of buildings on campus.

Police and bomb squads swarmed the area in one of the most significant responses to a bomb threat locally since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and wounded 260 others.

The Sept. 13, 2022, emergency response began when Duhaime, at the time the new technology manager and director of Northeastern's Immersive Media Lab, called 911 to report he was injured after opening a package containing a "violent note."

Duhaime said "very sharp" objects flew out of the package, a hard plastic case. But prosecutors said Duhaime's arms had only superficial marks, while his shirt, the case and the note had no signs of damage.

"And the reason was the defendant made the whole thing up," Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Kistner told jurors in his opening statement on Monday.

The note ranted about virtual reality; the lab, a hub for immersive technologies; and Meta Platforms founder Mark Zuckerberg and referenced matters known to a handful of people including Duhaime, prosecutors said.

When police and federal agents later interviewed Duhaime, he "doubled down on his made up story," Kistner said.

U.S. District Judge William Young scheduled Duhaime's sentencing for Oct. 2.

Duhaime's lawyer, Scott Lauer, declined to comment. He had argued the hoax was someone else's doing and said Duhaime enjoyed his job.

"Jason Duhaime is not a liar," he told jurors. "He is a scapegoat."

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Daniel Wallis)