Friday, May 26, 2017
Arkansas man pleads guilty to making bomb threats to Cedar County Courthouse
An Arkansas man has pleaded guilty in federal court to making bomb threats to the Cedar County Courthouse in an effort to cancel his own court hearing that he feared would send him to jail.
Phillip Ray Robison, Jr., 36, of Hartford, Arkansas, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool on Thursday, May 25, 2017, to one count of maliciously conveying false information related to explosive materials. Robison remains in federal custody without bond.
By pleading guilty, Robison admitted that he made three separate bomb threats on two occasions in January 2016, each of which caused the evacuation of the Cedar County Courthouse in Stockton, Mo.
Robison called the court clerk for the Cedar County Courthouse on Jan. 11, 2016. Robison stated, “You better tell Judge Bickel to clear the courthouse cuz a bomb is going off at 2:30.” Law enforcement cleared everyone and searched the courthouse for the presence of an explosive or bomb. Law enforcement did not locate an explosive device in the courthouse.
After the courthouse was cleared, Robison called the clerk’s office a second time and said, “you screwed up,” indicating that law enforcement had missed the bomb during their original search. Once again the courthouse was closed and another search was conducted. Law enforcement again failed to find an explosive device during this second search.
On the day of the bomb threat, a court bailiff observed Robison at the courthouse. The bailiff thought that Robison seemed nervous. Robison had been scheduled to appear in Judge Bickel’s court for a probation violation hearing following his prior conviction for distribution of illegal narcotics. Robison was concerned that he was going to be sent to the Missouri Department of Corrections for a 120-day sentence.
On Jan. 25, 2016, Robison called another bomb threat into the Cedar County Courthouse. The court was cleared and searched by law enforcement officers. No explosive device was located. When the court reopened to the public, Robison was first in line. Deputies who were aware of the circumstances of the first bomb threat recognized Robison.
Deputies asked Robison to step out of line to speak with them. Robison agreed to be interviewed and was taken to the sheriff’s office. Robison admitted that he had made both of the January 2016 bomb threats because he wanted his court hearing to be cancelled. Robison believed that if his hearing was held, the court would return him to jail, and he wanted to avoid returning to jail. Robison also told deputies that there were never any bombs.
Under federal statutes, Robison is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Carney. It was investigated by the Cedar County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department and the FBI.