A federal grand jury indicted two teen-agers Thursday after they allegedly used another teen’s image on social media to threaten a school district.
Tristan H. Kelly, 19, and Cody T. Ritchey, 19, were indicted on one federal charge related to spreading false information through social media. They were also indicted on a second count charging harassment and intimidation through electronic communication.
Each charge is punishable by five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and supervised release of no more than three years.
Kelly and Ritchey were arrested in February on state charges of terroristic threatening. They allegedly used a photo of a boy with a handgun accompanying text that said “Be ready for school monday Jessamine County.” In reality, no classes were scheduled for Feb. 19, the Presidents’ Day holiday.
The two used a social media image of an individual who “was not involved with the threats,” Nicholasville police spokesman Kevin Grimes said at the time. The name of the uninvolved individual was initially circulated.
The indictment says the two “intentionally conveyed a series of false and misleading information” through a series of social media posts that an individual would attack one or more Jessamine County schools with firearms.
The indictment adds that the two used electronic communications “with the intent to harass and intimidate” the uninvolved person and to “engage in a course of conduct that caused, attempted to cause and would reasonably be expected to cause substantial emotional distress” to the individual.
The Nicholasville police department worked with the social media network Snapchat to get account and other information about who made the post. The threatening post that was shared by the public with law enforcement and many others across the city, county and state to develop the evidence to make the arrests.
School shootings in Florida and Marshall County led to more threats against schools across the country and in Kentucky, according to law enforcement and numerous media reports.
Social media posts were used to create fear and anxiety across the country, and one tactic is to make others appear responsible.
An arraignment date in U.S. District Court in Lexington has not been scheduled for Kelly and Ritchey.