Attorneys tend to have full schedules and are typically juggling multiple cases at once, running here and there and being called into impromptu hearings. Forgetting to do something is not uncommon. However, when the opposing counsel asks for sanctions because a lawyer failed to comply with an order, there are usually two options available — comply or show up and take the heat. When either of these seems like just too much to bear, perhaps one could ask for an extension or some help to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Or, perhaps, just decide to call in a bomb threat, instead, in an attempt to avoid the whole debacle.
Jacqueline B. Jones did just that. The attorney was charged in May with third-degree falsely reporting an incident, a misdemeanor, after allegedly phoning in a bomb threat to avoid a sanctions hearing against her. The maximum penalty is one year in jail and a $100,000 fine.
Court records show Jones called in the threat to Childhood Beginnings daycare center in the federal courthouse in February 2015, the day of the sanctions hearing. Opposing counsel Rick Guy was seeking a sanction against her for failing to obey a court order to produce evidence in a civil case. When Jones failed to show, federal magistrate judge David Peebles eventually allowed Guy to state his case without her and subsequently denied his request.
According to court records, Jones placed the call while she was supposed to be in the courtroom, stating specifically, “There is a bomb in the federal building.” Security officers immediately pulled the fire alarm to alert all in attendance. “I’m literally just standing up to make my argument when the alarm goes off,” Guy said.
Jones was representing Arc of Onondaga, a disability services organization, in a civil rights lawsuit filed by an employee, Christine Delay, at the time. Despite the denial, the case would later be “settled to the mutual satisfaction of both parties,” according to Guy.
Everyone was instructed to stay where they were while the guards scoured the building in search of the bomb. Of course, after careful investigation, nothing was found. It wouldn’t be discovered until after the judge’s denial of sanctions that Jones’ not only instigated the false alarm but did so to avoid the hearing.
Jones has written a letter of apology to Peebles. Her attorney, Edward Menkin, said his client is “deeply remorseful and embarrassed” and adds that such pressure “can cause a disruption of judgment in anyone…Lawyers, in particular, have to go through very stressful situations. She was in one and she’s paid a terrible price.”
“I sincerely feel bad for her,” Guy said. “She must’ve been under a lot of pressure.”
What’s most ironic about the entire situation is that the lawyer pulled an outlandish stunt and called in a threat for absolutely no reason at all. Had she just shown up and listened to the argument against her, she would have heard Peebles deny the request and be able to peacefully move on with her life. Instead, she is out of a job and due to incur a criminal record.
Jones is scheduled to plead guilty on August 4th.