October 5, 2022

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDUCATION APOCALYPSE: Former Northeastern University Staffer Is Charged With Staging Campus Explosion.

Jason Duhaime, 45 years old…was director of the Immersive Media Lab at Northeastern, but a university spokeswoman said Tuesday that he was no longer employed there.

Mr. Duhaime said Sept. 13 that he was injured when sharp objects blew out of a hard-sided plastic case as he opened it, but the next day officials said they were investigating whether he staged the incident and questioned whether there was any explosion at all.

The package had been accompanied by a rambling printed note that railed against virtual reality, the metaverse and Meta Platforms Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg. According to a photograph included in a court filing, the typed letter warned that Northeastern’s virtual-reality lab had two months to take down its operations “or else!!!!!” It ended with the warning, “WE ARE WATCHING YOU.”

Forensic experts found a draft of that same letter on a computer in Mr. Duhaime’s Northeastern office, created just hours before the alleged explosion, according to an Federal Bureau of Investigation agent’s affidavit included in a court filing unsealed Tuesday.

More details at Boston’s CBS affiliate: Northeastern University employee staged bomb incident, faces federal charges, FBI says.

In an interview described in the affidavit, Duhaime allegedly told investigators, “As soon as I opened it up, all this energy and, like, these things come flying out. And I had a long sleeve shirt, and they flew up underneath, basically, and hit my arm. The case went up and then it came down.”

The evidence refuted Duhaime’s claims. According to the affidavit, investigators found the case in question was empty and did not show any signs it had been exposed to an “explosive discharge of any time or magnitude.”

“The Subject Case was empty. The inside and outside of the case did not bear any marks, dents, cracks, holes, or other signs that it had been exposed to a forceful or explosive discharge of any type or magnitude. Likewise, aside from several fold marks, the Letter was pristine. It bore no tears, holes, burn marks, or any other indication that it had been near any sort of forceful or explosive discharge,” the agent wrote in the affidavit.

The affidavit continued, “Duhaime raised his sleeves for the Northeastern officer, revealing several small, superficial marks or bruises on his lower forearms. Duhaime’s shirt, however, did not appear damaged.”

A school-owned laptop in Duhaime’s Northeastern office contained a file of the bomb threat letter, written hours before the incident, investigators said.

“Forensic analysis of one of the computers seized during a search of the office at Northeastern University revealed the word-for-word electronic copy of the letter stored in a backup folder. Metadata associated with this file reflected a created date and time of Sept. 13 at 2:57, roughly four hours prior to when he called 911 to report the explosion,” U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said.

“Throughout the course of our investigation, we believe he repeatedly lied to us about what happened inside the lab, he faked his injuries, and wrote a rambling letter directed at the lab threatening more violence,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph Bonavolonta said.

Bonavolonta said Duhaime “wanted to be the victim,” but would not comment on a possible motive or ideology.

“In this case, we believe Mr. Duhaime wanted to be the victim, but instead victimized his entire community by instilling fear at college campuses in Massachusetts and beyond,” he said.

The FBI probably enjoyed the old school nature of a suspect allegedly lying to them after the past few years: Bombshell LA Times Report: FBI Misled Judge Who OK’d Warrant for Beverly Hills Seizure of $86 million.

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